Kentucky Winner Kings Temptress Dies from Complications Following Foaling

Mary King and Kings Temptress. Photo via EN archives.

We’re incredibly sad to share the news that Mary King‘s 2011 Kentucky CCI5* winner Kings Temptress died yesterday, following complications after giving birth to a colt Friday morning.

“Very sad news … my dear Tess, having given birth to a beautiful strong colt foal yesterday, had to be put down due to peritonitis,” said Mary in a statement on her Facebook page. “I am absolutely devastated to have lost her. I was so lucky to have bred such a wonderful mare, who gave so much to me and others through her life to the end. Winning Kentucky 5*, 3rd [at] Burghley, my reserve horse for the London Olympics and 8 foals plus so many more special times … dear dear Tess.”

Mary King & Kings Temptress

Mary King & Kings Temptress at Burghley 2011. Photo by Peter Nixon/FEI

The 20-year-old mare by Primitive Rising and out of Kings Mistress, a Louella Inschallah II mare, was an early result of Mary’s home breeding venture. But it wasn’t until she reached the upper levels that ‘Tess’ started to show that she might be made of the right stuff.

“She was the third horse I bred out of Kings Mistress and when I started jumping Kings Gem and Kings Fancy they were really neat and organised from the start. When I started jumping Tess, she really couldn’t do it and I thought, ‘What have I bred?'” said Mary in an interview with Horse&Hound in 2015. “But when she got to intermediate level she started to learn to get high enough and she went on to become really confident. It’s amazing she did what she did. Her two older sisters both reached four-star, but she’s the one who won one.”

The consistent mare would complete five CCI5* competitions in her career, which saw her amass 1,099 British Eventing points over a decade. In her level debut at Luhmühlen in 2009 she finished fourth, following the strong performance up with a top-20 finish at Burghley later the same year. The following year, she recorded a 7th place finish at Burghley, setting her up for the biggest moment of her career the next spring, when she won Kentucky. That autumn, she took third at Burghley, closing out a remarkable year and earning her a reserve spot for the 2012 London Olympics. She was retired in 2015 after a shock unsoundness on the morning of cross-country at Badminton led to the discovery of arthritic changes.

Mary King and Kings Temptress at Badminton. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Tess was owned by longterm supporter Derek Baden, who bought the mare as a seven-year-old when Mary was forced to sell to pay for her house. A six-person syndicate called ‘The Mares Team’ came aboard to assist with running costs, and when Tess was retired, she was given back to Mary to join her breeding string.

But Tess was no late starter to the breeding business: she had her first foal at the age of four. Everys King, by Mednight Mahout, was competed by both Mary and daughter Emily before being sold on. Through her competitive career, Tess had five further foals via embryo transfer, including King Robert II, one of three Chilli Morning x Kings Temptress offspring, who stepped up to CCI4*-S in 2019 with Mary aboard. After her retirement, she carried and produced three further foals, including King Vincent, who she gave birth to yesterday.

“She has left me with a beautiful boy, Vinnie,” continued Mary in the statement. “He is by the stallion Van Gogh whose Christian name was Vincent … so King Vincent he is!”

The healthy colt has been paired up with a foster mare in Warwickshire following a plea on Facebook that garnered significant attention yesterday.

You can relive Mary and Tess’ biggest win with this throwback video from US Equestrian. All of us at EN send our deepest condolences to Mary, Derek, and all of Tess’ connections.