Featured Image: Courtesy of Peter Pring: The Thoroughbred Press ‘The Star Kingdom Story’.
See also: Noel Hennessy and Star Kingdom
See also Video: ‘The Star Kingdom Dynasty’ on this website.
Star Kingdom Dynasty:
I acknowledge the following report by Liz Martiniak:
|Star Kingdom proved to be the equine version of the plucky little steam engine immortalized in Watty Piper’s classic children’s tale The Little Engine That Could. Star Kingdom was a tiny horse. His breeder literally shut the door on him at birth. But he went on to become one of the most brilliant sprinters of his generation. British breeders had no faith in him and allowed him to go to Australian breeders, and even many of the breeders in his adopted country doubted his ability to become a successful sire. Each hurdle which came his way, Star Kingdom mastered.
Star Kingdom was foaled on April 30, 1946. He was bred by Richard Ball, master of Cloghran Stud, in County Dublin, Ireland. Ball was renowned as the breeder of champion steeplechaser Reynoldstown, twice a winner of the Aintree Grand National.
As a foal, Star Kingdom could not have been more of a disappointment to his breeder. He was such a tiny and delicate colt, Ball could not hide his feelings. He later recalled, “I saw him for the first time when he was less than a day old. He was a small, weak foal with quite the worst legs I have ever seen. But the old groom at Cloghran Stud, McKenna, said, ‘Shut the door and don’t look at him for a week,’ I took his advice, and then I found a strong little colt, very lively, and with legs that were quite passable.”
The little colt had a decent, though not highly fashionable pedigree. He was sired by Stardust, a good racing son of Lord Derby’s mighty Derby hero and leading sire Hyperion. Stardust was produced from 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 run second to Djebel in the Two Thousand Guineas and second to Turkhan in the St. Leger. At stud, he was quite useful, getting a number of good stakes winners during his stud career, including Moondust, Maharaj Kumar, Smokey Eyes (a good sire in Australia), and Irish Two Thousand Guineas winner Stalino, in addition to Star Kingdom.
The dam of Star Kingdom was Impromptu, a daughter of the smart sprinter Concerto. The latter was a son of dual Champion Stakes winner Orpheus, a son of Orby, a dual winner of the Champion Stakes. Concerto was out of a daughter of Sunstar, thereby giving Star Kingdom a 4×4 inbreeding to that 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 4×4 inbreeding to Canterbury Pilgrim’s two outstanding sons, Chaucer and Swynford.
Star King on the Turf
When he was a yearling, Star Kingdom went through the Doncaster sales, and fetched 3,100 guineas. His purchaser was publisher Wilfred Harvey. The colt was originally named Star King, and by that name he performed on Britain’s tracks. 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 blazed home a ten length winner. Wins by daylight in the Sandown Stud Produce Stakes and the Hurst Park Sorrel Stakes set Star King up for a meeting with the brilliant Abernant, like Star King, a grandson, by Owen Tudor, of Hyperion., in the National Breeders Produce Stakes. Star King lost a gallantly run race 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 conquest of Star King at Sandown Park.
Star King was never quite as brilliant the remainder of his career. At three, Star King won three races: the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, the Jersey Stakes at Ascot, and the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury. He ran dismally in the Two Thousand Guineas, trailing in tenth behind Nimbus, with rival Abernant running second. The latter captured the July Cup, with Star King running third. 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, running second once and unplaced three times.
Star King in the Stud
A group of British breeders initially desired to stand Star King in England, and owner Leigh was amenable to selling the horse. The deal never materialized, and instead, Leigh sold Star King to an Australian group headed by Stanley Wooten, Reg Moses and his Fairway Stud, and Alf Ellison’s Baramul Stud, where Star King would stand. Since there already was 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 thereby 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 good deal of weight. That, coupled with his small size, made him look pitiful. 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. Of the premier races for two-year-olds, Star Kingdom sired five victors in 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.
With his very first crop, Star Kingdom proved an outstanding success. His first crop included KINGSTER, winner during his career of the AJC Breeders’ Plate, VRC Newmarket Handicap, AJC All-Aged Stakes, and W.S. Cox Plate. He was named champion Australian two-year-old of 1954.
ULTRABLUE was an outstanding filly from Star Kingdom’s first crop, accounting for the AJC Gimcrack Stakes only two days after Kingster captured the AJC Breeders’ Stakes. There were fourteen other individual winners in Star Kingdom’s first crop. After this quick start, Star Kingdom never looked back.
|TODMAN, foaled from the Colombo mare Oceana, was foaled in 1954. On the racetrack, this striking chestnut colt won ten of his twelve starts and was named co-champion two-year-old. He was victorious in ten races, including the STC Golden Slipper Stakes, AJC Champagne Stakes, VATC Futurity Stakes, and the Canterbury Guineas. As a stallion standing alongside his sire at Baramul Stud, Todman was champion sire of two-year-olds twice and sired a total of 38 stakes winners. His progeny included Blazing Saddles, winner of the Group 1 VATC Blue Diamond Stakes and sire of English champion sprinter Mr. Brooks; Crewman, another winner of the Blue Diamond Stakes; Eskimo Prince, winner of the STC Rosehill Guineas, STC Silver Slipper Stakes, and AJC Breeders’ Plate; and Imposing, winner of thirteen races, including the AJC Epsom Handicap. Todman was twice champion sire of broodmares. His daughters produced 45 stakes winners. Australian Horses of the Year Dulcify and Maybe Mahal were produced from Todman’s daughters Sweet Candy and Faithfully Yours, respectively.
Todman was a horse with a strong personality. Standing at Baramul, he was placed in a paddock near that of his sire. Star Kingdom was not enthused about having the younger horse within such close proximity, and would become extremely jealous whenever anyone stopped to visit Todman first. Todman, for his part, seemed to relish this fact, and would take almost a sadistic delight in trying to stare down his sire, who would then become highly agitated. It was safe to say father and son had no love lost for each other.
NOHOLME, a full brother to Todman, was born in 1956. Noholme was named Australian Horse of the Year as a three-year-old, and during his career on the turf accounted for the AJC Champagne Stakes, W.S. Cox Plate, and the Epsom Handicap. He was purchased by an American syndicate to race in America. Upon arriving in the states, he was styled Noholme II, and on American tracks, he was four times stakes-placed.
|Noholme II was highly successful as a sire in the United States. He was once a leading sire of juveniles, and his stakes winners included two-time handicap champion Nodouble and champion sprinter Shecky Greene. As a broodmare sire, Noholme II’s daughters accounted for sixty stakes winners.
Noholme’s son Nodouble was a tough, durable campaigner. he won handicap races from coast to coast, and was affectionately known as “The Arkansas Traveler.” Never considered the height of fashion as a stallion, he nevertheless produced a steady stream of high class, durable performers. His son Overskate was a champion racehorse and good sire in Canada. Nodouble’s daughter No Class produced six stakes winners, was named Broodmare of the Year in Canada, and became the matriarch of a family which boasts Sky Classic, Regal Classic, Grey Classic, Classy ‘n Smart, Dance Smartly, Smart Strike, Dance Brightly, Dance With Ravens, Scatter the Gold, and Dancethruthedawn.
Both Noholme and Todman were trained by Maurice McCarten. When someone asked him how he would compare the two horses, he replied, “If you invited both horses to afternoon tea, you would find Noholme the perfect gentleman–punctual, gracious, and always willing to please. Todman, on the other hand, would arrive late and without apology. He would greedily eat everything within his reach and knock over a table stretching for more. When he had finally had enough, he would then sit back and look to start an argument.”
Todman and Noholme had two other full brothers, SHIFNAL, foaled in 1960, and FARINGDON, foaled in 1961. Shifnal was not as talented as his elder brothers on the racecourse. He did win four out of eight starts, but nothing of the importance or prestige won by his brothers. At stud, he sired only seventeen stakes winners, but he was a champion sire of two-year-olds once. His daughter Jandell was named champion three-year-old filly in New Zealand and his son Sun Monarch was named a champion two-year-old in South Africa. Shifnal did well as a broodmare sire, his daughters producing Moss Kingdom, winner of the Adelaide and Perth Cups, Cure, winner of the New Zealand One Thousand Guineas; Regimental March, winner of the New Zealand St. Leger; and further Group I winners Navy Seal, Love to Dance, and Red Express.
FARINGDON won only three races, none of them stakes. At stud, he sired a like number of stakes winners, Navajo Brave, winner of the Tattersalls Stakes and Sabron, winner of the AJC June Stakes being his best.
|SKY HIGH was foaled in 1957. On the racecourse, Sky High was a tough, consistent performer. He was a champion at two and three, and a champion older horse. He won 29 races, the STC Golden Slipper Stakes and the VRC Derby being among the many races he won. After standing a few seasons at Woodlands Stud, he was purchased by an American syndicate headed by Arthur Boyd (“Bull”) Hancock of Claiborne Farm near Paris, Kentucky. In Australia and New Zealand, Sky High left Sky Call, winner of the VATC Eclipse Stakes and other stakes winners Obelia, Captain Kirk, and Skyperion.
|Upon reaching the states, he was styled Sky High II. He was a solid, useful stallion whose handicap performers represented him best. His most accomplished offspring was 1972 American champion handicap horse Autobiography, winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Discovery Handicap, and three other major stakes. Tragically, Autobiography never had the opportunity to stand at stud, as he broke down in a race in California early the next season and was humanely destroyed. Good handicap performers by Sky High II sired in the United States included Take Off, Sky High’s Son, and Sky-Cast’s Double, none of which perpetuated Star Kingdom’s legacy in the stud.
FINE AND DANDY, out of Shading, by Italian-bred Brueghel, was a chestnut gelding foaled in 1956. He was named champion two-year-old, and during his years on the track, accounted for the STC Golden Slipper Stakes, AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes, and two editions of the Doncaster Handicap.
Four years younger than Fine and Dandy was his full brother, also a gelding, named TIME AND TIDE. This durable runner captured twenty races, and like his elder brother, took laurels in the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes and Doncaster Handicap, as well as victories in the AJC Champagne Stakes and VATC Caulfield Guineas.
STAR OF HEAVEN, out of Magic Symbol, by the Big Game stallion Makarpura, was a foal of 1961. He captured nine races, chiefly the Linlithgow Stakes and VRC Racing Club Stakes. He also placed in the STC Golden Slipper Stakes and VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes. He became the sire of just eight stakes winners, but he came up with a top class representative in his son Star Shower, undefeated in five starts and a champion Australasian two-year-old. He in turn sired Australasian champion Drawn, winner of both the VATC Caulfield Guineas and STC Rosehill Guineas.
|Star of Heaven had a younger brother, BISCAY (1965). He was victorious in nine races, including the VRC Maribymong Plate and VATC Merson Cooper Stakes.
Biscay was champion juvenile sire on two occasions. His son Zephyr Bay was an outstanding sprinter at stud and a champion sire of two-year-olds. Biscay’s son Marscay was another member of the Star Kingdom tribe to land a victory in the STC Golden Slipper Stakes and was a successful sire.
|Biscay’s best son was Bletchingly. Lightly raced due to unsoundness, Bletchingly ran only five times. He won four races and was second once. His stakes wins came in the AJC Galaxy Handicap, VRC Moomba Handicap, and the MVRC Windarra Handicap. At stud, Bletchingly was a resounding success. He sired 63 stakes winners, was champion sire from 1979 through 1982, and champion broodmare sire from 1999 through 2000. All told, daughters of Bletchingly produced 60 stakes winners.
KAORU STAR, born in 1965 from the Emperor mare Kaoru, won thirteen times in 27 starts, his most important victory coming in a division of the QTC Hopeful Stakes. Listed among the leading Australian sires six times, Kaoru Star was a leading first crop sire and twice a champion juvenile sire. His son Luskin Star was named a champion two-year-old colt in Australia, becoming another descendant of Star Kingdom to land the STC Golden Slipper Stakes. Kaoru Star was once a leading broodmare sire, with over 70 stakes winners being attributed to his daughters.
In 1967, Star Kingdom’s son PLANET KINGDOM was born as a result of a union with the Messmate mare Lilting. Unlike many of the Star Kingdom’s, Planet Kingdom had a bit more staying power, his two biggest victories coming in the 1-1/4 mile AJC Craven Plate and the Tattersall’s Cup of 1-3/8 miles. He was also placed in the AJC Derby. At stud, he sired horses with his staying ability, including VATC Caulfield Cup winners Ming Dynasty and Mighty Kingdom; AJC Doncaster Handicap winner Just Ideal; QTC Derby winner Our Planet; and further Group I winners Ideal Planet, Leica Planet, and Cosmic Planet. Daughters of Planet Kingdom produced thirty stakes winners, among them AJC Australian Derby winner and champion Innocent King.
SUNSET HUE, RED GOD, OSMUNDA, TATTENHAM, ROYAL ARTIST, STAR AFFAIR, RAJAH, COALCLIFF, KING STAR, and SECRET KINGDOM were just a few more of the good siring sons of Star Kingdom, each of them coming up with major stakes winners. Sunset Hue sired Gunsynd, winner of 29 races including the Cox Plate; Red God was sire of VRC Produce Stakes winner Pacifica; and Osmunda sired Australian champion two-year-old filly Black Shoes.
Lest it be thought Star Kingdom sired only top colts, he had his share of top class fillies, several of which became significant producers. REVEILLE, out of Emulation, by Dogger Bank, and foaled in 1961, was named Australia’s champion three-year-old filly with victories in the VATC One Thousand Guineas and AJC Flight Stakes. She spent several years of her stud career at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky after she was purchased for breeding purposes by American interests. She produced three stakes winners. Her son Realty, by Sir Ivor, was a multiple Group III winner in France. Sons Ethnarch, by Buckpasser, and Savings, by Buckfinder, were each multiple stakes winners in the United States.
CITIUS, foaled in 1962, was a daughter of the Delville Wood mare Rich and Rare. Like Reveille, she was named champion Australian three-year-old filly. Her stakes wins included the VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes at two and the AJC Doncaster Handicap, VATC Oakleigh Plate, and VRC Lightning Stakes at three. Her best offspring was the Century colt Consenting, winner of the VRC Leonard Handicap and multiple Group I-placed.
RITMAR, out of Magic Ring, by Ringmaster, was a foal of 1956. She was victorious in the VRC Lightning Stakes. Like Reveille, she wound up as a broodmare in the United States. She produced American stakes winner Agronomist, by Herbager, and stakes-placed Taipan, by Bold Ruler. The latter was sent to New Zealand for stud duty and met with considerable success, being named champion first crop sire in 1973/1974 and champion sire of two-year-olds in 1973/1974 and 1974/1975.
CONCERT STAR, foaled in 1954 from the Hua mare Huarette, was another two-year-old champion for her sire, capturing the AJC Gimcrack Stakes, the VRC Maribymong Stakes and placing in the STC Golden Slipper Stakes. Her progeny included Australian stakes winner Tantrum and co-champion Australian two-year-old Academy Star.
New Zealand champion three-year-old Mansingh, a winner of the New Zealand Derby, was produced from Star Kingdom’s daughter STARQUITA. This black mare, foaled in 1959 from Chicquita, by Blank, was also dam of Australian classics-placed filly With Respect.
|The most prolific daughter of Star Kingdom was undoubtedly DARK JEWEL. A foal of 1953, she was produced from the mare Red Lace, a daughter of Hurry On’s son Excitement. On the track, Dark Jewel was nothing out of the ordinary, winning only three times from 25 starts. Once she was put in the stud, however, she became a classic blue hen, producing five stakes winners. Four of her stakes winners were sired by Rego, an imported son of Nasrullah. They were Baguette, Cabochon, Heirloom, and Birthright. Of these, Baguette and Heirloom were champions. The former was named a champion at two and champion sprinter at three. His victories included the STC Golden Slipper Stakes, AJC Champagne Stakes, Sires’ Produce Stakes, George Main Stakes, and VRC Newmarket Handicap, all Group I races. Heirloom was named co-champion two-year-old filly, taking the VRC Maribymong Plate at two and the VATC One Thousand Guineas at three.
|Birthright and Cabochon were not champions, but close. Cabochon was a dual Group I winner, and Birthright was a winner,, like her sister, of the VRC Maribymong Stakes. Dark Jewel’s fifth stakes winner, Betelgeuse, was sired by the Court Martial son Wilkes.
On April 21, 1967, Star Kingdom died from an attack of colitis. He died with his head resting in the arms of his long-time groom, Noel Hennessy.