The 7-year-old String King became a graded stakes winner with his victory in the Grade 3 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap at Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orléans on Saturday.
Previously graded stakes-placed, String King is one of the best Louisiana-breds racing, and he is a grand advertisement for the ruggedness and consistency the breed can produce. Racing successfully from his first season as a 3-year-old in 2011 to the present, String King has been a stakes winner each year, and his current earnings total $818,552.
From 34 starts, String King has won 15 races, including 10 stakes, with eight seconds and three thirds.
There is not a doubt that the bay gelding is a thorough and genuine racehorse and a credit to the breed. Yet if we looked at the odds of producing such a horse, the probabilities would be significantly against. Massively against.
But genetics is a divine sort of crapshoot, and occasionally from horses with few opportunities or with little to recommend their breeding prospects, horses of unexpectedly higher ability will arise.
Foaled on April Fool’s Day in 2007, String King was bred in Louisiana by Charles Smith, also the owner and trainer of the gelding.
Smith was patient with String King, not racing him till May of his 3-year-old season, when he was unplaced. String King won a maiden special in his second start, an allowance in his fourth start, and became a stakes winner in December 2011 with victory in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf Stakes, which he also won in 2012 and 2014.
What String King has shown on the racetrack could not have been expected from his sire and dam. The E.R. Bradley Handicap winner is the third of four live foals out of String Dancer, who was 18 when String King was foaled. String Dancer is by the little-known Irish-bred stallion Fly a Kite.
String King is the only stakes winner out of the dam, who won two races from 14 starts. String Dancer is out of the winner One for Emprey, by English Derby winner Empery (by Vaguely Noble), and the third dam is a nonwinner by the Northern Dancer stallion One for All. Third dam Fashing is a half-sister to stakes winners Bafflin Lil (Baffle) and Justa Little One (Tara Road). They were out of Jet Ahead (Dead Ahead), but those were the only black-type performers in the direct female line.
String Dancer’s sire, Fly a Kite, was by the top-class racehorse and sire Be My Guest (Northern Dancer). Fly a Kite was one of five stakes horses out of his dam, the Never Bend mare Honey Bend, and he may have been the best of the lot. Fly a Kite won 15 races and managed to squeak in for third in the Barksdale Handicap at Louisiana Downs. His half-brother Choco Air (Sassafras) was a modest stakes winner who also ran third twice at the G3 level in Italy.
Fly a Kite sired 56 foals in nine crops, with 24 winners. None were stakes horses.
By contrast, the sire line of String King is pretty darned good.
String King is the best racehorse by the stallion Crowned King, a 15-year-old son of the Mr. Prospector stallion Barkerville. As a racehorse, Crowned King was the typical hard-knocking racehorse, winning five stakes and more than a half-million dollars from 48 starts in four seasons of racing.
Crowned King was the sort of racehorse that trainers love. Such animals race and win and earn. Trainers would love to have a barn full of them. As a stallion prospect, however, Crowned King’s greatest recommendation was that he had testicles.
Otherwise, making him appeal to breeders was a steep climb, and from six crops, the stallion had 25 foals, with seven winners. The only stakes winner for Crowned King is String King.
In essence, String King is the exception to the rule who gives every breeder the option to hope for that great stroke of luck.
Genes and the uncertainties of transmission sometimes defy the odds to result in animals with athletic potential outsize to their antecedents. And for some of those gifted individuals all the stars align and allow them to develop and express that potential. When that happens, anything from good racehorses to great ones, like John Henry, can result.
String King is a credit to the breed, the sport, and to his owner-breeder-trainer who has so successfully brought the horse to this peak of his career.
*The preceding post was first published last week at Paulick Report.