“The King”, as he is often known, has had more influence on the development of the Irish Sport Horse and the Irish Draught breed than any other stallion in the last fifty years. The enormous number of claimed descendants (versus actual, which is still a very great number) is a testament to the desirability of having his name appear in an ISH pedigree, and many a horse advertised in the sales columns of the equestrian press is described as “believed to be a grandson/daughter of King of Diamonds”.
King of Diamonds was bred by the O’Neills at their Slyguff Stud in Co Carlow, Ireland, and was born in 1962. He was a bright chestnut, standing at almost 17hh, and is often described as having a “quirky” temperament - something that he may have passed down the generations, as many King of Diamonds’ descendants are noted not only for their talent and their jumping ability but also for their occasional bouts of “bloody-mindedness”. Loftus O’Neill described him as “impressive looking, he was always very proud and kept himself looking over the heads of everything else. You can see this even in the last photo taken of him less than a year before his death, while his body and topline is gone, he’s still a big proud horse. And he was a big man too at almost 17hh. But what made him special was that he passed this character on to his offspring”.
King of Diamonds was produced by John and Mary Hutchinson of Kilkenny and became a Grade A showjumper before returning to Slyguff Stud to take up his breeding career. The importance of tradition and family dynasties in the Irish horse breeding world is demonstrated by the fact that the O’Neills bred King of Diamond’s dam Ruby, whose sire, True Boy, was in turn bred by their cousin Jack O’Neill of Kilkenny from an old point-to-point mare, Biddens.