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Breeders Corner \ Star Kingdom

22 May

This week we look at a horse who was described as a 'weedy small foal with the worst legs when born' yet defied all odds to become a champion sire in Australia ..... his name, Star Kingdom.

Born 30 April 1946, Star Kingdom was bred by Richard Ball, owner of Clogharn Stud in County Dublin, Ireland and was a complete disappointment for his breeder when he first laid eyes on him less than 24 hours after being born.

But the old groom at Cloghran Stud, McKenna, told Ball to, “Shut the door and don't look at him for a week” ..... sound advice indeed as he recalled, “I took his advice, and then I found a strong little colt, very lively, and with legs that were quite passable”.

By Stardust, a good racing son of Lord Derby's Derby hero and leading sire Hyperion, Stardust was out of the Friar Marcus mare Sister Stella, and his second dam was by Derby winner Sunstar, a son of the outstanding sprinter Sundridge.

With a pedigree more geared to speed, Stardust not surprisingly was most effective as a juvenile, taking the National Breeders Produce Stakes. Even though he could not stay, he still had enough class and courage as a three-year-old to finish first in the Champion Stakes before suffering disqualification, and ran second to Djebel in the Two Thousand Guineas and second to Turkhan in the St. Leger.

The dam of Star Kingdom was Impromptu, a daughter of the smart sprinter Concerto, who was out of a daughter of Sunstar, which saw Star Kingdom bred on a 4x4 cross to the classic winner.

Impromptu never raced, her dam, Thoughtless (by Papyrus) never won, and the next dam, Virgin's Folly (by Swynford) won only once and produced nothing of merit as a broodmare. All Impromptu had to recommend her was the fact she hailed from the family of Canterbury Pilgrim, Lord Derby's foundation mare being her sixth dam.

Mating Impromptu to Stardust also gave Star Kingdom a 4x4 inbreeding to Canterbury Pilgrim's two outstanding sons, Chaucer and Swynford.

As a yearling, Star Kingdom went through the Doncaster sales, fetching 3,100 guineas, his purchaser was publisher Wilfred Harvey.

The colt raced as Star King in Britain and from the time he first went into training with John Waugh, the little chestnut colt showed he had ability well above the ordinary. He made his first start on April 7, 1948 in the Manton Stakes, run over five furlongs at Salisbury ..... three weeks shy of his actual second birthday.

Star King destroyed his opposition to post a ten length victory and went on to score wins by margins described as 'daylight' in the Sandown Stud Produce Stakes and the Hurst Park Sorrel Stakes. This set Star King up for a meeting with the brilliant Abernant, who like Star King, was a grandson of Owen Tudor, a son of Hyperion.

In the National Breeders Produce Stakes. Star King was gallant in defeat, going down by only a head. He closed out his juvenile campaign with victories in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood and the Gimcrack Stakes at York. Star King was ranked second to Abernant on the Free Handicap of two-year-olds at year's end, the latter having added victories in the Champagne Stakes and Middle Park Stakes to his list of laurels after his victory over Star King at Sandown Park.

At three, Star King won three races: the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, the Jersey Stakes at Ascot, and the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury. At the end of the season, owner Harvey sold his colt to Claude Leigh, and Star King was transferred to the yard of Fred Templeman. Star King won the six furlong Coronation Stakes at Chester, but failed to win again in four subsequent starts.

A group of British breeders expressed interest in standing Star King in England, but the deal never materialized, and instead, Leigh sold Star King to an Australian group headed by Stanley Wooten, Reg Moses (Fairway Stud), and Alf Ellison's Baramul Stud, where Star King would stand.

As there was already a horse named Star King in training in Australia at the time, the stallion's new owners were obliged to change his name slightly, the chestnut grandson of Hyperion becoming Star Kingdom.

His new owners must have experienced second thoughts when their new purchase disembarked from the ship after his long voyage from England early in 1951. The colt had lost a considerable amount of weight on the journey, and coupled with his small size, his new owners must have wondered what they had purchased.

In addition, breeders who came to inspect the new stallion as a potential mate for their mares were less than enthusiastic about him due to his pony-sized physique. They must have had short memories, for his grandsire, Hyperion, a leading stallion, never topped 15.2 hands, and his sire Stardust, also a successful stallion, measured 15.3 as a mature stallion.

Star Kingdom was the smallest of this male line, growing to only 15.1 hands. In addition to being vertically challenged, Star Kingdom was built along the lines of a typical sprinting type, being a blocky, compact individual, with heavily muscled hindquarters.

As a sire in Australia, he proved his lack of inches did not equate to lack of prowess in siring top class individuals. He sired 65 stakes winners and was named champion Australian sire five times, champion juvenile sire six times, and champion broodmare sire three times.

Star Kingdom became a strong influence for speed in Australian pedigrees. Of his 260 individual winners, no less than 136 won as juveniles.

Such was the dominance of Star Kingdom in two-year-old racing in Australia five winners of the STC Golden Slipper Stakes, eight winners of the Sires' Produce Stakes, seven winners of the AJC Champagne Stakes, three winners of the AJC Breeders' Plate, four winners of the VATC Debutante Stakes, five winners of the AJC Gimcrack Stakes, and five winners of the VATC Merson Cooper Stakes.

Among his offspring were 52 stakes winners, including the outstanding horses Biscay (sire of Bletchingly and Marscay), Citius, Concert Star, Todman, Fine and Dandy, Noholme, Reveille, Time And Tide, Sky High, Skyline, King Star, Kingster, Star Affair, Planet Kingdom, Kaoru Star (sire of Luskin Star, a Triple Crown winner), Mighty Kingdom, Gold Stakes, Magic Night, Starlit, Cymbal, Courteous, Sunset Hue (sire of Gunsynd) and Ritmar. The top racehorse Sky High was his most prolific winner, recording 29 wins.

Star Kingdom was also a noted broodmare sire with the likes of his daughter Dark Jewel producing Baguette, a Golden Slipper Stakes winner who was unbeaten in his two-year old season and future sire of note.

Standing at Baramul Stud for 16 successive seasons (1951–1966) he died from a bowel blockage, at the age of 21, on 21 April 1967. A headstone at Baramul Stud - now owned by Gerry Harvey - commemorates Star Kingdom and his son, Todman.

In 1978, more than 11 years after Star Kingdom's death, he had at least 42 sons standing at studs in Australia and New Zealand, including the very successful Kaoru Star. At the same time he also had over 100 grandsons standing at stud.

We still see the presence of Star Kingdom in some of our modern day pedigrees with the likes of Astern, Brazen Beau, Capitalist, Charge Forward, Choisir, Denman, Headwater, I Am Invincible, Marauding, Needs Further, Nicconi, Pins, Redoute's Choice, Sepoy, Shamus Award, Spirit of Boom, Stratum Star, Telperion, The Autumn Sun, Trapeze Artist, Written Tycoon, and Zoustar among those carrying lines of the influential sire in their pedigrees.

Pictured: Star Kingdom