His name may have been slightly over the top- he was not even the highest rated colt of his generation- but King Of Kings was a quality runner that heralded the start of the dominance of trainer Aidan O’Brien in Irish racing.
King Of Kings was foaled in 1995 in Ireland, a dark bay colt with three white foot, by champion sire Sadler’s Wells. His dam, Zummerudd came from a family of aptly named ancestors: Somethingroyal and Crowned Prince both featured in her pedigree. As a foal, he was sold to Coolmore for 250,000 guineas.
In five races as a two year old, King Of Kings was rated an odds on chance, and rarely his followers down. In his debut in the European Breeders Fund Maiden over six furlongs ay the Curragh, he routed the opposition by an impressive eight lengths under Christy Roche. Four weeks later, he progressed to Pattern company and won the Group 3 Railway Stakes by a cosy length over Danyross.
King Of Kings suffered his first defeat in his next start in the Anglesey Stakes, when beaten a short head by Lady Alexander in a very gentle ride. In third place was the appropriately named Princely Heir, subsequent winner of the Phoenix Stakes. He amended for that loss with a comfortable win in the Listed Tyros Stakes, before moving up in class to Group 1 level.
Sent off the 4/9 favourite, King Of Kings defeated eight other juveniles to win the National Stakes over one mile. This effort, as well as his previous runs, clearly marked him out as a potential Classic horse for the following season, although some observers were unconvinced by the quality of his form and his temperament. Unfortunately, King Of Kings incurred a knee injury during the race, and was unable to run again that season.
During his convalescence, the French colt Xaar established himself as the Champion two year old in Europe, with dominating wins in the Prix de la Salamandre and Dewhurst Stakes. Accordingly, he was made favourite for the first Classic of the season, the 2000 Guineas, and his claims to the throne were only enhanced when he won the Craven Stakes on his seasonal debut.
In contrast, King Of Kings didn’t remerge until Guineas day, and he was rated the 7/2 second favourite behind the odds on Xaar. In the event though, it was the Irish colt who staked the first claim as leader of his generation, with a ready win over Gran Criterium victor Lend A Hand with Xaar only back in fourth. After the race, trainer Aidan O’Brien offered his opinion that the horse “was a child last year, but is a man now".
The colt was aimed at the Derby afterwards, despite serious doubts about his ability to stay the twelve furlong distance. Despite this, his connections were more than willing to put the horse’s stamina to the test, although jockey Mick Kinane was less confident, and deserted the colt for stablemate Second Empire.
Treasonous as his actions were, Kinane made the right call and steered his mount to a second place finish behind High-Rise. And King Of Kings? He was rather rudely dethroned in finishing a long 37 lengths behind High-Rise, and stone cold last of the fifteen runners. It was found afterwards that the colt’s knee injury had flared up, and he was honourably retired to Coolmore Stud. He had particular success in Australia and sired Group 1 winners King’s Chapel and Reigning To Win.