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Unbridled's Song - a photo album
Above: Unbridled's Song at Taylor Made Farm, KY, in October 2012
I am cursed – or blessed, perhaps – with a terrible memory. Important things that happened to me a year ago often seem a century ago, and things that happened to me many years back? Odds are good my memory banks aren't storing them.
My memories of Unbridled's Song's racing career, for instance, are simply a series of still photos. Oh, sure, he was a Breeders’ Cup champion, an exciting Kentucky Derby favorite and, I know, a big favorite of mine. I photographed 8 of his 12 races - from his maiden victory at Saratoga through his next-to-last start, an Aqueduct allowance. I chronicled powerful victories in the Breeders’ Cup, Florida Derby and Wood Memorial.
But while I don’t really remember Unbridled’s Song on-track, my photographs do. Pictures from 1995 and ’96 reflect a stunning horse - tall, powerful - with a dark-grey coat, a white left front and right hind, a distinctive blaze down his handsome face and a bright pink spot between his nostrils. His face was refined and ears sharply tapered – nearly Arabian. He looked wise and confident and, on occasion, downright irritated. His riders – Mike Smith and exercise rider Barry Downes – looked proud.
Unbridled’s Song entered stud 15 years ago at the world-class Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky, and there he remains. Year in and year out, he sires top horses. And in recent years, his name has also reigned high on the broodmare sire list.
It’s hard to find time to do things for fun, and I’d seen Unbridled’s Song at Taylor Made only once before 2012. Oh, it’s not like I haven’t kept up with his offspring - I photograph them regularly, and even, in some cases, his second- or third-generation runners. Time flies, and I click.
This past October, Taylor Made allowed me to spend a little time with one of my favorite old friends. Now 20, Unbridled’s Song looks so different that it was difficult to see the competitive, dark-grey racehorse within the proud, near-white stallion. But it was fun to try.
Gilberto Terrazas, the stallion division manager, met me at the stallion complex. He is attentive to detail, helpful, interesting…a true horseman. And Unbridled’s Song? He was a champion.
I’m obviously not the first person to gawk at this incredible stallion, and he posed like a fashion model. According to the stallion register, he stands 17-hands – and, with his high head carriage, he seemed even taller. His muzzle, knees and hocks are still a bit dark, and his left front and right hind feet are light-colored. His near-white coat is flecked with tiny spots and his thick, wavy tail reflects a slightly golden sheen. His face is unusually beautiful, and that pink spot between his nostrils - so clearly evident during his race days – is still bright.
Even more stunning now than when he was on-track, Unbridled’s Song had a remarkably self-confident, proud manner. He paid attention to the groom at the end of the leadshank, but I’d guess he realized how powerful he is. He was just too classy to cause trouble.
After a while, he grew tired of this visiting woman and her seemingly endless clicking. He showed his disapproval by moving his lips, chewing, dipping his head…still polite, but clearly bored. After all, there was clearly no mare in sight.
He was led back to his paddock where, the moment the shank was unclasped, he turned and galloped politely away, up his sloping field to a back corner. There, Unbridled’s Song seemed a vision in white…a perfect creature in a horse-racing novel, his classic head held high and his tail a plume behind him.
Now, that is a scene I'll always remember.
Above: Unbridled's Song at Gulfstream Park in spring 1996.
Above: Unbridled's Song's sire, Unbridled, at Claiborne Farm in 2000.
Above: I have never seen Unbridled's Song's dam Trolley Song, but here is Trolley Song's dam, the multiple graded stakes-winning Lucky Spell, at age 33 at Magali Farms, CA. Born in 1971, she won or placed in 31 of 69 starts and earned $235,655. She won five stakes races.
Above/below: Unbridled's Song breaks his maiden at Saratoga on August 26, 1995. Mike Smith was aboard the colt for all 12 of his starts.
Above: Unbridled's Song before the Champagne Stakes. He finished fourth to Maria's Mon.
Above: Unbridled's Song and Mike Smith, Belmont workout, before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, 1995.
Above/below: In just his third start, Unbridled's Song ran a bang-up race in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, defeating Hennessy.
Above/below: Unbridled's Song wintered in Florida. Here he is at Gulfstream, early 1996, with Barry Downes up.
Above: Unbridled's Song ran second in the Hutcheson and Fountain of Youth before heading postward in the Florida Derby.
Above: There are a couple of very familiar faces behind Unbridled's Song as he headed homeward in the Florida Derby - Skip Away (red-and-yellow) and Louis Quatorze (yellow shadow roll).
Above: Unbridled's Song and Mike Smith winning the 1996 Florida Derby.
Above/below: Unbridled's Song, Florida Derby. I miss those old winner's circle presentations in the Gulfstream infield.
Above: Unbridled's Song, Mike Smith, first time by in the 1996 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
Above: Cruisin' again....Unbridled's Song romps in the Wood.
Above/below: Wood Memorial.
Above/below: Unbridled's Song headed to Churchill Downs as a heavy KY Derby favorite. But he was plagued by foot issues leading up to the race - as evidenced by the unusual horseshoe, above (left front foot).
Above: By the time the race approached, Unbridled's Song was wearing not only unusual shoes but a bandage on his left front.
Above: Trainer Jim Ryerson was polite during the Derby lead-up, but it was easy to see it was not exactly fun for him. When looking for familiar faces in the media crush, I noticed DRF's Dave Grening, whom we call the hardest-working man in racing, is right there, near Ryerson.
Above: Jim Ryerson and his Unbridled's Song, Derby week.
Above: Unbridled's Song heads to the paddock for the Kentucky Derby.
Above: The Kentucky Derby post parade - and, again, notice the shoes.
Above: By the time they entered the final turn, Unbridled's Song (front, left) was beginning to struggle. None the less, he still ran a very credible 5th.
Above: Mike Smith and Unbridled's Song head back to be unsaddled.
Above: Barry Downes and Unbridled's Song at Belmont Park, summer 1996.
Above: Unbridled's Song and Mike Smith, public workout, 1996, Belmont Park.
Above: Barry and Unbridled's Song share a quiet moment.
Above/below: Unbridled's Song returned to the races in the Peter Pan, where he ran second to Jamie's First Punch.
Above: After that solid second-place finish in the Peter Pan, Unbridled's Song headed to Arlington Park in July for the Arlington Citation Challenge.
Above: Unbridled's Song, clearly unhappy in the Arlington paddock, showed it to trainer Jim Ryerson. Unbridled's Song finished 9th.
Above: After a trainer change, Unbridled's Song returned to the races on November 30, 1996, in an Aqueduct allowance.
Above: Pacific Fleet wins at Aqueduct on 11/30, while Unbridled's Song finishes second.
Above: New trainer Nick Zito greets Unbridled's Song when he returns for unsaddling.
Above: Ten years later, Unbridled's Song was much lighter, and contentedly nestled in at the beautiful Taylor Made Farm.
Above: Unbridled's Song, 2006, at age 13. Note the dark legs and mane.
Above/below: In 2006 (above) and 2012 (below).
Above/below: Unbridled's Song, age 19, at Taylor Made in October 2012.
* * * *
Unbridled's Song's 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVkRX09AMN0
Unbridled's Song's maiden victory, 1995: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWPbPHZiaAQ
Taylor Made Farm's Unbridled's Song webpage: http://www.taylormadestallions.com/horses/unbridleds-song-953.html
Thank you to Taylor Made Farm, including Mark Brooking, stallion division manager Gilberto Terrazas, and the Taylor family.
Great stuff, brought back wonderful memories. I loved this horse as well. He had me from day 1. I was at Saratoga and saw his maiden win. The buzz around Saratoga all August was that there was this great 2 year old that was working “lights out” in the morning, but had never made it to the race track. If my recollection is correct, he was scratched a couple of times before his first race. The critics deemed him the best race horse to never race. And yes, said with tongue in cheek. The buzz started the day before that Unbridled Song was enter to race the next day. Race day morning was buzzing with anticipation on what we were going to see in a few hours. Was he the next Triple Crown winner, or just another “dud” with a lot of hype. I usually sit in the picnic area at Saratoga. But that day upon entering the track, someone gave me 2 extra grandstand tickets they had. I thought, hey, I can watch this “wonder horse” race from the front side. The time had finally arrived, his first race. He looked like a “million bucks” as he walked through the crowd to the paddock. His deep, dark, gun metal gray coat was as dappled as ever. Now it was time to show everybody what he had. He crushed his completion that day. His time was not as sparkling as everyone had thought it would be but after such a big lead Mike Smith did the right thing and slowed him down as he approached and passed the wire. I remember saying, whoa, we just saw something special here today. As his career progressed it was filled with highs and lows. Some physical issues with the horse, but in my opinion owner related issues. They could never seem to put it all together at the same time. But for me, I still bet him to win the KY Derby even with a serious quarter crack. And darn near did, finished 5th running on 3 good feet! That’s how much talent this horse had. As he raced on he was never given the proper time to heal and come back. His owner even at one point just gave up on the horse. I remember thinking what a shame. He was one of the most talented horses I have ever seen. And with some better luck with his physical issues and definitely a better owner he would have been a horse we would have been talking about for his racing achievements instead of his breeding accomplishments. After seeing Barbara’s piece, I guess I need to get to Taylor Made before it’s too late.
ahhh, as always not only great pics (he really looks great)but some cool inside scoop! thanx Barbara. Great timing too we just sold a wonderful race mare of dads Trip For AJ with Taylor Made as consignors @ Jan. Keeneland. They did a great job and with Adena Springs the new owners we are very pleased. Just made me feel good about the racing game after reading about the Aqueduct breakdowns :
I agree with the others, he grows more beautiful with age. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures.
Dear Barbara,Thank you so much for the wonderful pictures.I have most all of the ones that you put on DRF as you do such a great job.I think that you are by far the best photographer around the racetrack.Your friend forever,Jerry
He was always handsome but old age really agrees with him. What a stunner.
How is it that they become more beautiful with age? Love the photos. Give me goosebumps.
Stunningly beautiful, so often the Kentucky Derby is a tale of de feet.
Incredible. Wow. All I can say is Wow.
Wow - What a gorgeous horse and thank you for the background story. It is so incredible to view his coloring change over the years. Simply amazing. Giacomo has gotten so much lighter too in just a few years. So interesting to watch. I'm thinking of Mizdirection and her dark gray and thinking as she gets older I wonder if her coloring will also lighten. Love these gray horses.
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