By Frances J. Karon
According to an account by Murphy Givens, a chronicler of King Ranch’s Richard King, King Ranch was founded in 1853 by the 29-year-old King, who bought 15,000 acres of land for two cents an acre—an expenditure of $300. King, being a great visionary, may have had some idea that the name he established would still be going strong some 160 years later.
An orphan of Irish parentage, King had run away from New York when he was eight. Cattle ranching was not in King’s blood, but he was a sharp entrepreneur who saw a big future in a stretch of Texas land. By the time he died in 1885, King Ranch was comprised of 614,000 acres, more than triple the size of his birthplace, New York City.
From 1885 onward, the ranch thrived under the 40-year leadership of King’s widow, Henrietta, and then their son-in-law Robert J. Kleberg Jr., who with wife Helen’s encouragement, began to breed Thoroughbred racehorses in the 1930s, the decade during which Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Bold Venture was acquired to stand stud. Bold Venture sired King Ranch’s Triple Crown winner Assault and Kentucky Derby/Belmont winner Middleground.
One of King Ranch’s greatest Thoroughbred investments was G.P. Goulandris’s French-bred *Monade (by *Klarion), a champion in England and France. For Goulandris, Monade won the 1962 Epsom Oaks (and other major races) and ran second in the 1962 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. She produced all her foals for King Ranch, and most of the many black-type winners descending from Monade were bred either by the ranch or by Helen Kleberg Groves (the only child of Robert and Helen Kleberg) and her daughters Emory A. Hamilton, Helen Alexander, Dorothy ‘Dede’ Matz, and Carolina ‘Cina’ Forgason. Forgason bred and owns 2014 Grade 1 winner Somali Lemonade, a fifth-generation descendant of Monade.
The roots established by Monade at King Ranch 50 years ago remain strong as we move into 2015, the year Coolmore’s promising stallion Verrazano—whose fifth dam is Monade—enters stud to carry on his part of the legacy.
Verrazano was bred by Richard King’s great-granddaughter Emory Hamilton. Hamilton also bred Verrazano’s dam Enchanted Rock (Giant’s Causeway) and his second dam Chic Shirine (Mr. Prospector), a full sister Hamilton’s homebred champion older female, Queena. Verrazano’s third and fourth dams, Too Chic (Blushing Groom) and Remedia (Dr. Fager), were bred by King Ranch.
A jaw-dropping, physically imposing individual and a half-brother to Grade 2 winner El Padrino, Verrazano is a son of More Than Ready and is the second foal out of Enchanted Rock. Middlebrook Farm—the Kentucky farm owned by Hamilton’s sister Helen Alexander, the breeder of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern—sold Verrazano to Let’s Go Stable for $250,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the big colt was unraced at two and won six-of-10 starts at three, including two Grade 1s—the Wood Memorial and the Haskell Invitational, by nearly 10 lengths—among his four graded stakes wins (from 8.5 to 9 furlongs).
Coolmore Stud, which had bought an interest in Verrazano after his second start, transferred the colt to Aidan O’Brien in Europe for his four-year-old campaign, where he placed second in Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne S.-G1 and third in the JLT Lockinge S.-G1, both over a mile.
A top dual-hemisphere sire, More Than Ready has sired 56 GSWs, but Verrazano is his first North American Grade 1 winner to go to stud in the country. Sebring, an Australian-bred G1 winner by More Than Ready, has made such a good start in Australia that the undefeated champion Black Caviar was bred to him this season, and his early success bodes well for millionaire Verrazano, who shares his name with a bridge in King’s native New York City.
Verrazano is certain to be well supported at Ashford Stud, where he packs a lot of history into a $22,500 stud fee.