Dr. Tony Ryan, owner of Castleton Lyons Farm in Lexington, passed away Oct. 3 at his family estate in Ireland after a long illness. He was 71.
Born Feb. 2, 1936, Ryan was listed as one of Ireland’s richest men – seventh in the Sunday Times "Rich List of 2007." The founder of Guinness Peat Aviation in 1975 and Ryanair in 1985, he became involved in the Thoroughbred industry in 2000 when he spent $4.7 million for 1998 Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I) winner Catchascatchcan, eventual producer of group II winner Antonius Pius, at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
According to the Associated Press, Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary, a protege of Ryan, said he had left an astonishing legacy. It quoted a statement from O'Leary: "It was a privilege to work for him and to learn from him. I will miss his guidance, encouragement, and friendship. We are all determined that Ryanair will continue to carry his name with pride and distinction."
The news agency further reported that Irish billionaire businessman Anthony O'Reilly, who heads Independent News & Media, called Ryan "a true pioneer" who "changed the skies of Europe, not just for the Irish people, but indeed for all Europeans. That will be his epitaph. It could not be more appropriate."
Ryan purchased the historic Castleton Stud in Lexington in October 2001. He renamed the farm Castleton Lyons after his family estate, Lyons Demesne, in Ireland’s County Kildare, and supervised extensive renovations to the property during the next several years.
In 2004, Castleton Lyons reopened as a stud farm, and in the next three years Ryan supervised the additions of stallions such as Action this Day, Bernstein, Malibu Moon, Sir Shackleton, Toccet, and Wiseman’s Ferry.
“(The stallions’) success is a reflection of Dr. Ryan’s enthusiasm and foresight,” said a statement issued by Castleton Lyons Farm. “His love of racing manifested itself in his eagerness to see his stallions’ progeny on the track. Whether he had bred the winners himself or was simply reveling in the success of others, Dr. Ryan enjoyed the game to his last days, following the exploits of his horses with his final energy.”
Ryan is survived by three sons – Declan, Cathal, and Shane. Cathal owns Swordlestown Stud and Shane is the owner of Kilboy Stud, both in Ireland. According to a statement from Castleton Lyons, Ryan’s sons have been heavily involved with the farm from its inception and will ensure that business continues as usual.
A private funeral service and burial will be held for Ryan at Lyons Demesne. Castleton Lyons Farm will be closed Oct. 3-6.