Every breeding enthusiast would agree that 1990 Melbourne Cup winner Kingston Rule (pictured) was a true blue blood of the thoroughbred world. It would be a fair call that he would be the most regally bred aristocrat to ever win a Melbourne Cup since it was first run in 1861.
As he flashed across the line victorious on the first Tuesday in November fifteen years ago, the 7-1 equal favourite would smash the previous Melbourne Cup and Flemington record for 3200 metres and record 3 minutes 16.3 seconds on the track officially rated as “fast”. No winner since 1990 got within two seconds (12 lengths) of Kingston Rule’s time, until 2002 when the American bred, Irish trained galloper Media Puzzle won in 3 minutes 16.97 seconds – still 4 lengths slower than Kingston Rule.
The win by Kingston Rule would be the third time in the history of the Melbourne Cup that a horse conceived in America would be victorious – the previous two being 1980 winner Belldale Ball and 1986 winner At Talaq.
Trained by legendary Melbourne Cup trainer Bart Cummings and ridden by champion jockey Darren Beadman for his Cup assignment, Kingston Rule’s original conception in America was quite amazing in itself.
Buoyed on by the success he had achieved by putting his German bred mare Ada Hunter to Australian speedster Bletchingly and producing a champion called Kingston Town, Victorian breeder David Hains decided to try his luck again. To this day, that horse Kingston Town still holds the Australasian record for the most number of Group 1 wins ever at 14, but it is fair comment that Hains and trainer Tommy Smith never quite got over seeing the great horse get to the front too early in the straight in the Melbourne Cup of 1982 only to be cut down in the last few strides by Gurner’s Lane and Mick Dittman.
Hains breeding venture soldiered on and he decided to fly his Australian mare Rose of Kingston to America to be mated with champion United States sire Secretariat. Rose of Kingston had proven herself in the racetrack to be top class. Her ten career wins included three Group 1 wins – the VRC Oaks, AJC Derby (against the colts) and the Champagne Stakes. She was crowned “Australian Horse of the Year” and “Australasian Champion 3YO Filly and Older Mare”.
Secretariat had been twice named “United States Horse of the Year” and his 16 career wins included such classics as the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
So the conception of Kingston Rule was the end result of the union of two champion racehorses from different points of the globe. Kingston Rule in some ways turned out to be basically a disappointment on the racetrack. His one start at age 2 resulted in an unplaced effort. His stoutness of pedigree suggested he’d be a better horse as he got older and those thoughts came to fruition, when Kingston Rule after two wins as a 3 YO had his first victory as a 4YO in a prelude to the Melbourne Cup – the Moonee Valley Cup over 2600 metres – just ten days before the Flemington race that stops the nation. His barnstorming victory at Moonee Valley ensured he held a high ranking in bookies markets when the first Tuesday in November came round. Kingston Rule easily won the Group 1 Melbourne Cup to record only his 4th lifetime victory from 18 starts. The Melbourne Cup became his first and only Group 1 win. He was retired with earnings of A$1,549,125 and commenced stud duties in 1991.
Despite having a wonderful international pedigree, it is fair to say that the magnificent chestnut stallion Kingston Rule has been yet another abysmal flop in the history of the Australian thoroughbred industry. He has had 303 individual progeny to race but only 153 of them have been able to win a race anywhere. That equates to just over 50% winners-to-runners and that percentage is only reflective of his foals that actually got to the races. Others go by the wayside as the attrition rate of unsoundness, paddock accidents and lack of ability take stock. [A “successful” stallion will achieve a minimum of 60% winners-to- runners ratio as a rule of thumb.]
Of Kingston Rule’s stakeswinners-to- runners ratio the news gets even worse. Of his 303 individual runners, only 5 have been able to win a black type race of Listed, Group 1, Group 2, or Group 3 status. Those 5 are Kensington Palace, Sheer Kingston (who both won at Group 1 level) and Innocent Affair, Ruling Eyes and Danson D’or (who all won only at Listed level). Those 5 stakeswinners give Kingston Rule a stakeswinners-to-runners ratio of 1.65% that is woeful. [As a guide here a good quality stallion will always throw a stakeswinners-to-runners ratio over 5% after several (5 or 6) crops have raced.]
Kingston Rule still stands at stud today in Victoria for a service fee of $3300. The gamble that David Hains took of putting the best to the best – and hoping for the best – produced no fairytale except a Melbourne Cup victory, but in the general score of things that wasn’t a bad consolation prize.