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K One King - A Bit of Vision

Stallions > Active

Ellen Parker

“I’ve never thought going the way of the herd was a particularly good strategy.  
You can be assured to be at best middle of the pack if you do that.  And that’s at best.”
—Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

 Ask 10 people what is wrong with horse racing today and they will tell you 10 different things.  However, one thing is obvious:  When stars do not stay long upon the stage, a sport loses its ability to attract new fans.

 Stars cannot stay upon the stage for long if their underpinnings are so fragile that they cannot compete more than a handful of times.  And that problem is directly traceable not to drugs, as some would have us believe, but to a total lack of genetic diversity caused by an emphasis on sales over soundness.

 In what seems like a very short period of time, sire lines that were once revered – Hyperion, Son-in-Law, Domino, Never Bend, Grey Sovereign, Luthier and of course *Princequillo have seen their strength reduced to a trickle.  Everything, it seems, is inbred to Northern Dancer and Raise a Native (largely via Mr. Prospector).  

 It is what the pair share in common, Native Dancer (Natalma in Northern Dancer and the tail line of Mr. Prospector) that tells the tale.  In an era when horses routinely ran 50 times or more, Native Dancer could make only 22 starts due to iffy ankles.  Trainers who saw him race knew the score, but most of them are no longer around.

 We have instead a new breed of trainer and owner, exposed only to the Coolmore era commercialism of breeding and inbreeding everything to Northern Dancer and then crossed back on American Raise a Native inbreds.  The original idea of course was that inbreeding was done in order to outcross, but to whom does one outcross today?

 The real truth is that there are no actual outcrosses left.  With a stud book that has effectively been closed for over 300 years, we cannot hope to find anything that is totally different.  But we can find the ‘front part’ of a pedigree that is unique.  A few examples are Include and the now pensioned Holy Bull, both of which hail from the American line of Himyar via the Domino and Plaudit lines respectively.

 There are a handful of others but most noticeably absent from the stud book’s list of major male lines is *Princequillo.  This is particularly sad because it is sound, versatile and was good both as a male line progenitor and as a broodmare sire line.  The fact that A. B. “Bull” Hancock hand-picked *Princequillo speaks volumes.  Allowing one of his favored lines to die out seems somehow disloyal to the origins of the modern Thoroughbred at its best.  After all, Hancock insisted that Round Table return to Claiborne to stand at stud when he was done racing.  Perhaps had Hancock lived, Round Table’s mates might have been chosen with more purpose – e. g. to establish his tail line in perpetuity.

 But in these fast-paced times, one cannot dwell too long on what might have been.  What remains is the topic at hand – and how breeders handle that remnant of greatness.  One entity, Gunpowder Farms, has shown enough courage and vision to take that step.  No one else has had the same kind of rock-bottom ‘guts’ in recent memory.  And they have taken it with an 18-year-old stallion who in his first 10 crops has sired only 185 foals.  We refer, of course, to G1 winner K One King by Round Table’s champion son Apalachee out of Tis Michelle by Native Charger.

 ‘King’ began his stud career at Gainesway Farm where his sire stood, but he was generally ignored in favor of more commercial types like barn mate Tapit and before long a very special man named Daniel Thomas, along with his partner Steve Crowe, took the handsome chestnut to Louisiana for a second chance.  The partners did their best with King.   But obviously he was not going to get the cream of the crop there – with commercial sires getting 150 mares and more in two different hemispheres what, after all, was left for him?

 So the blood languished in relative obscurity, with an occasional stake horse or stakes placed individual to reawaken the possibilities of the blood carrying forward to a new generation.  Still, time was running out and the books were not big enough.

 When Gunpowder came along, King was still in excellent health, tall and handsome and a gentleman to his very core.  When he stepped off the van in Kentucky at his new home, Margaux Farm, everyone said, “Oh, what a big, beautiful horse!”  He is that and more.  With a countenance more closely resembling Moccasin in general, he still owns the Round Table nobility and intelligence.  When spoken to, Round Table himself would often stand very still and cock his head as if he understood; King does likewise.

 His sire, Apalachee, was a gentleman as well.  From the moment he stepped off the plane he was all man, but he loved people.  Once we observed a woman with a camera backing up to take a photo of another horse without noting that she was backing directly into Apalachee who was watching all the while.  In some cases, she might have been in real trouble, but Apalachee merely tapped her on the shoulder with his nose, as if to say, “Hey, I’m lots prettier than that guy; take my photo, too!”

 Thus Gunpowder was able to see beyond what seemed like an impossible task and roll the dice as it were, hoping to save a sire line that unlike most begat good bone, a beautiful shoulder and even a great disposition.  And while many would not call the line fast, it should be remembered that Round Table owned 16 track, world or North American records in his time.  He was, certainly, a fine grass horse (and where pray tell did Northern Dancer make his reputation?) but keep in mind that when Round Table was racing in the late 1950’s there were not as many opportunities on the grass as there are today.

 This means that of his 43 wins, only 14 were on the grass.  Races like the Hollywood Gold Cup, Santa Anita Handicap, Bluegrass Stakes and the coveted Strub Series all were run on – and won – on dirt.  K One King was himself a main-track specialist and most of his get have performed well on the main track, though they have also won on other surfaces.
 And while King has been ‘useful’, an oft-used euphemism for ordinary, his limited books and the rush to run his juveniles has not been friendly to his type or best interests.  Few horses of this caliber ever get a second chance, but remember what we said about vision and courage? King will have that chance in 2013.

 Racing owes Gunpowder big time, whether King gets a whole slew of major winners, a handful or just some fine producing daughters.  Because we need stallions like him that are devoid of Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector blood.  He is also devoid of Seattle Slew, Blushing Groom, Hail to Reason, Buckpasser, and Damascus.  Meaning that while you can inbreed to his top lines of *Knight’s Daughter, *Rough Shod II, *Herodias and Canterbury Pilgrim, you can also cross darn near anything to him and not be afraid you are promoting unsoundness.

 But Gunpowder did not just acquire K One King and bring him back to Kentucky.  They literally put their money where their mouth is.  Over the last several months, it has been busily scouring sales both in Europe and in all points of the U. S. A.  About 30 mares have been earmarked for the handsome chestnut which no doubt is extremely grateful that he has found himself in the hands of his own personal John Beresford Tipton who has acquired for him nothing less than a world-class harem.

 The mares in question were foaled in Germany, England, Ireland and the U. S.  They are sired by Honour and Glory (Man o’ War line); Hail to Reason line Intikhab, More Than Ready, and Red Ransom; Ahonoora (Herod)-line Indian Haven; Grey Sovereign line Mizzen Mast (three mares); Bahram-line Monsun; Seattle Slew-line A. P. Indy (three mares); Domino/Ack Ack line Include (two mares); Blushing Groom/Leroidesanimaux; Northern Dancer – Sadler’s Wells, Nureyev, Storm Bird (four mares); Danzig (two mares); Raise a Native/Mr. Prospector (five mares).  

There will be a few more added to this list, but one sees the depth of the diversity and the unique attempt to ‘unlock the genetic puzzle’ that is K One King.  When one considers that Gunpowder may well run many or even all of the resultant foals themselves, their real commitment to the salvation of the *Princequillo line comes into even clearer focus.
 These mares are from families like Happy Mood, Wold Lass, Beadah, Lady Juror, *Papila, Almahmoud, Our Lassie, Amerigo Lady, Ole Liz, Fish House, Countess Fager, *Rough Shod II, Honor Bound, Sunny Gulf, Missy Baba, and Cinegita, to name just a few.  Twelve have won or placed in stakes and several others have already produced good runners.

 They represent inbreeding to many of the best lines in K One King’s own pedigree, including Round Table himself and his own tail-female line of Aloe, Moccasin’s *Rough Shod II family and Beaming Beauty to again name just a few.  The wonderful thing is that someone actually took a stand and made it happen.

 Someone who was not afraid to lead his own parade, to zig when others zagged, to as Tim Cook so beautifully put it not ‘go the way of the herd’, unafraid to hear the criticism of those who are themselves afraid to be different, we want to thank Gunpowder Farms.  They have done something special here – they have attempted to improve the breed.  We have not seen anyone else try that since Suzanne Pashayan bred Brown Bess and won an Eclipse award with her as a seven-year-old in 1989.  

 In a perfect world, we know that this first step toward revitalizing the Thoroughbred would result in a whole slew of major winners.  For Gunpowder who has put its money, time, strength and passion into this effort, we hope this remarkable gift to the breed results in –if not a perfect world – enough of a difference to make others have the courage to try to save another line - say Hyperion or Ahonoora or Known Fact.  

 Many years ago when the true visionary John Gaines still had Gainesway, his stallion brochure had a list of the farm’s different bloodlines – from Crimson Satan to Apalachee to Vaguely Noble to Big Spruce to Bold Bidder – all representing the hybrid diversity that allowed our horses to run 50 times over four or five seasons.  We’d love to see that happen again – then our stars would stay around, people would learn to know their names like they did Seattle Slew and Zenyatta and, yes, Round Table who ran 10 times as a two-year-old and retired sound as a bell at the age of five after 66 starts.

 In 66 starts you get to know a horse, to learn that it’s all right to dream; that sometimes dreams come true.  That is, if you start your own parade.  Thank you, Gunpowder Farms.  Thank you, Silver Spring Stud for giving him a good home and thank you, most of all King, for being the big, beautiful horse we always knew you were.  It is a privilege to know you.

K One King now stands at Silver Spring Stud in Paris, KY
Contact Farm Manager Erik Johnson (859) 753-4779
See his latest Kentucky-bred foals at

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