In the winter of 2016, a five-year-old stallion with black type oozing out of every line of his pedigree was doing nothing else but eating grass on a farm near the small Southland settlement of Woodlands.
So The King's owners, Ray, Tony, Martin and Joe Dennis – known colloquially in the south as the D-Boys – agreed he should be given the opportunity to serve a few mares.
“There would hardly be any stallion in the register with as many Group One winners on the page,” said Martin Dennis. “His full sister was a multiple Group One winner, his first three dams all left Group One winners, two of them were Broodmares of the Year, the third was a half-sister to one, and all are by champion New Zealand sires.”
The King, by O'Reilly from 2003 Broodmare of the Year The Grin, is a full sister to New Zealand 1000 Guineas winner The Jewel and half-sister to Star Affair, dam of 1000 Guineas winner La (Bella) Diosa. The Grin was by Grosvenor, second dam The Dimple by Noble Bijou, and third dam, 1991 Broodmare of the Year The Pixie, by Mellay. The Dimple, dam of Auckland Cup winner Irish Chance was a half-sister to 1994 Broodmare of the Year The Fantasy, dam of The Phantom Chance (New Zealand Derby, Cox Plate) and The Phantom (multiple Group Ones, second 1990 Melbourne Cup).
The Grin went 10 times to O'Reilly and produced seven foals. The first of them was The Jewel, born in 1999. What followed was a long wait for another O'Reilly filly that never ended. So the D-Boys decided to keep The King, leave him a colt and have him prepared for racing by the late Steve Anderton. Initially excited by The King's prospects, Anderton later had issues with the blue-blood who eventually went amiss without winning.
Like many retired racehorses, the by-then four-year-old was put in a “back paddock” while his owners pondered his future. Foremost in their mind was his impeccable pedigree, good looks and friendly nature, leading to the conclusion he deserved a chance at stud. That was when Chris Dennis, son of Martin, put up his hand. An operator at the Dongwha medium density fibreboard plant near Mataura, Chris had always been keen to stand a stallion.
“I went to White Robe Lodge and did a crash course, then converted some of the farm buildings,” he said. “It was November before we were ready.”
Because of the late start, The King saw little action and his first foal is yet to be born. It will be produced by The Rook, who is due to foal next week. The Rook's third dam, The Kurd, is fourth dam of The King. Two other mares in the Dennis band will follow.
Unlike last year, this time around The King was advertised in the Stallion Register standing at Ravelston Stud at a fee of $1,200 and a number of outside bookings followed. Most came from Otago and Southland but one mare is from Cambridge. She is in foal to Proisir and because Chris Dennis is not prepared yet for in-foal mares, she will first be agisted and foaled down at the well-established Macca Lodge in Northern Southland. - Mac Henry