A Trophy Fit for a King

A Trophy Fit for a King

King Ranch’s breeding program produces its first bred and owned AQHA world champion, Coronel Del Rancho. 

Sorrel horse with man in blue plaid shirt riding him.

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Becky Newell 

Just last year, the historic King Ranch was celebrated in The American Quarter Horse Journal as an 80-year breeder of American Quarter Horses. Truth be told, the AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder has been breeding Quarter Horses longer than 80 years, but 80 years is how long AQHA has been keeping records.

After the King Ranch-bred Coronel Del Rancho was crowned the junior Versatility Ranch Horse world champion at this year’s AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships in June, it surprised us just a little to discover that he’s the first homebred and owned AQHA world champion for the South Texas ranch, which won the AQHA Best Remuda Award in 2019. Oh sure, the ranch owned Mr San Peppy when Buster Welch rode him to an AQHA world champion title in senior cutting in 1976. But Mr San Peppy was bred by Gordon Howell, which makes Coronel Del Rancho’s world title even sweeter, as he’s the result of the ranch’s reinvigorated breeding program.

Coronel Del Rancho was shown by Ben Baldus of Gainesville, Texas, who also showed the reserve world champion and third-place horses in the junior division. 

The Journal reached out to the King Ranch to get some background on “Coronel.”

“When the King Ranch Quarter Horse team was looking for some outcross sires to breed to, Steve Knudsen (retired 40-year employee and former horse division manager) and Tío Kleberg (AQHA past president and King Ranch director and family member) were both asked about any sons of Peppy San Badger that had success in an arena outside of cutting,” the King Ranch says. “Both indicated that Lil Ruf Peppy was a great horse and a bloodline to pursue. We found one son and one grandson: Rufanicki and Not Ruf At All. We preferred the looks of Not Ruf At All for breeding ranch horses and so purchased breedings to him. We bred him to two nice, outcross-bred but King Ranch-owned mares. This was done so we could have more options to produce a possible stallion to breed back to our mares. The pairings produced two nice foals. One being a nice filly, and the other being a great-looking colt, Coronel Del Rancho.”

Not Ruf At All (see photo at right) has sired 292 foals that have earned nearly $800,000 in National Reining Horse Association and National Reined Cow Horse Association competition. (See his top five progeny by earnings below, and check out Not Ruf At All on AQHA's QStallions website.)

“Out of San Gris Girl, who is a granddaughter of Dry Doc, Coronel never had an awkward growth stage from the day he was born,” the ranch says. “His lineage can be traced back to some of the King Ranch’s most famous studs, such as Mr San Peppy, Peppy San Badger, Dry Doc, Rey Del Rancho, Wimpy and Old Sorrel.  King Ranch mares, like San Gris Girl, must prove themselves on the ranch, working day in and day out in the harsh and unforgiving South Texas climate.”

The King Ranch likes sending stallion prospects to trainer Ben Baldus because he has worked on large ranches and competed in most western disciplines, so he is able to assess the direction the ranch should proceed with a prospect.

“We sent Coronel Del Rancho to Ben when he was a yearling (in 2017). Ben thought that with how gentle and trainable he was, he would make a great horse for AQHA versatility. Around this time, Coronel’s sire, Not Ruf At All, won the reining triple crown, so we were more enthusiastic about him as a possible sire.”

While the ranch has a committee that analyzes its horses, that committee was formed after Coronel was foaled. 

“Each year, Dr. Jim Heird, Dr. Glenn Blodgett, Tío Kleberg (all AQHA past presidents), Steve Knudsen and the King Ranch Quarter Horse team grade our weanlings,” the ranch says.

As we mentioned, this committee was not formed until 2018, so Coronel was chosen by an internal group that included Dr. Ben Espy, King Ranch’s veterinarian; James Clement III, King Ranch’s horse division manager at the time and current land resource manager; and Dave Delaney, the former vice president and general manager of ranching and wildlife operations for King Ranch Inc.

“Everyone who saw Coronel thought he was exceptional,” the ranch says. “When Ben Baldus told us how polite and easy he was to train, we continued to pursue him as a possible sire. Both physically and mentally, he was an exceptional horse at a young age.

“King Ranch has and always will breed some of the best horses in the world. The King Ranch Quarter Horse team has worked the past few years to introduce our program back to the industry. We are very excited to win this event, and we owe this to our ancestors that bred such great horses that we can still benefit from today.”

What are the next steps for Coronel?

“Ben Baldus wants to continue to show Coronel. He is an outstanding trainer and a gentleman. We are proud to have him representing King Ranch. Coronel will pasture-breed mares on King Ranch, and he will be available for breeding to the public through the Four Sixes Ranch, as are the rest of our studs. Lee Roy Montalvo, who oversees daily operations for the King Ranch Quarter Horse program, turned Coronel out on a handful of mares this spring, and we now have three mares in foal to him. We picked Coronel up from his manada (broodmare band), and 64 days later, he won a world championship. That is the kind of bloodlines we strive for on the ranch, from the breeding pasture to the winner’s circle in less than 70 days.

“The King Ranch Quarter Horse program is ever-growing and continues to produce and provide the King Ranch cowboy the best working cow horse in the industry. With Lee Roy, Henrietta Armstrong and all who are involved with the program, the future of this operation is strong and committed to build upon the King Ranch tradition of breeding world-class horses.”


Not Ruf At All: Top Five Offspring
Brought to you by QData
1.    Ruf Style Of Play (out of UB Stylin With Me by Lean With Me), $92,180
2.    Its All About Ruf (out of Dun Pretty Nifty by Hollywood Dun It), $73,704
3.    Not Ruf Enough (out of Oaks Little Annie by Doc’s Oak), $57,171
4.    Shining On Ruf (out of Boom Shine Sally by Boom Shernic), $48,509
5.    Not Black At All (out of Lenas Poco Dunit by Hesa Sonofa Dun), $48,082