01/19/2018 10:30AM

Influence of Nerud, Fappiano lives on in leading sires

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Barbara D. Livingston
Candy Ride, the sire of likely Horse of the Year Gun Runner, is a great-grandson of influential stallion Fappiano.

“I didn’t know how to breed, or at least how everybody else did it at the time,” legendary horseman John Nerud told Daily Racing Form in 2014. “So how did I do it? I owned a piece of the farm, and I bred them and trained them, so if they couldn’t run whose fault was it? I bred like a trainer, and it worked.”

That strategy regarding bloodstock worked out for the late Nerud – and his many successes continue to have a ripple effect in the Thoroughbred industry. The handicap division of 2017 was a tale of two horses – or, in some ways, the tale of one stallion with Nerud’s fingerprints on him.

Powered by Arrogate and Gun Runner, respective sires Unbridled’s Song and Candy Ride – both male-line descendants of Nerud’s homebred Fappiano – topped the general sires earnings list. Arrogate, already an Eclipse Award winner, won the world’s two richest races, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup and the $10 million Dubai World Cup, to give the late Unbridled’s Song, flagship sire for Taylor Made Farm, a bankroll of $18,532,448. Lane’s End Farm resident Candy Ride’s progeny were responsible for $15,432,953 in total earnings, led by Gun Runner, who won four Grade 1 races, highlighted by the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, and finished second in the Dubai World Cup. Candy Ride edged Unbridled’s Song in North American earnings, $13,274,065 to $12,330,578.

Arrogate and Gun Runner – both finalists for 2017 Horse of the Year, an award expected to go to Gun Runner – also threw down some of the highest Beyer Speed Figures of the year. Arrogate posted a 119 winning the Pegasus World Cup, tied for the year’s top number. Gun Runner’s top number was the 117 he earned winning the Classic.

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Neither stallion was a one-hit wonder, however. Unbridled’s Song also was represented by Eclipse finalist Forever Unbridled, who won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff to complete an unbeaten campaign. Candy Ride sired 2017 Grade 1 winners Ascend and Separationofpowers, the brilliant Mastery, and graded stakes winner Paid Up Subscriber.

Fappiano, from the second crop of Mr. Prospector, was bred by Nerud and campaigned by the Hall of Famer to wins in 10 from 17 career starts, highlighted by the 1981 Metropolitan Handicap. He originally stood at the Nerud-affiliated Tartan Farm of William McKnight in Florida before moving to Lane’s End, where he died in 1990 at just age 13. That same year, his champion son Unbridled, bred by Tartan and sold via dispersal, won the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his short stud career, Fappiano also produced Eclipse champions Rubiano and Tasso, and Grade 1 winners Aptostar, Cahill Road, Cryptoclearance, Defensive Play, Grand Canyon, Quiet American, Some Romance, and Tappiano. Several sons from that group went on to become influential sires and sires-of-sires. Unbridled’s Song was from the first crop of Unbridled, while Candy Ride was sired by Cryptoclearance’s son Ride the Rails.

Unbridled, who died in 2001 at age 14, sired a winner of every Triple Crown race – 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet, and 2003 Belmont Stakes victor Empire Maker. Empire Maker is responsible via his classic-placed son Pioneerof the Nile for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Another classic-placed son of Empire Maker, Bodemeister, sired Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming in his first crop. Grindstone’s son Birdstone won the 2004 Belmont Stakes, and Birdstone’s first-crop sons Mine That Bird and Summer Bird accounted for two-thirds of the 2009 Triple Crown.

“It’s hard to come up with that true dirt speed,” said Lief Aaron, stallion manager for Juddmonte Farms, which campaigned Arrogate. “That’s what a lot of Americans want, dirt speed and the ability to go a classic distance.”

Unbridled’s Song stood at Taylor Made from his retirement in 1997 until his death in 2013. He was represented by Eclipse Award champions Arrogate, Midshipman, and Will Take Charge; Canadian champion Embur’s Song; a trio of Breeders’ Cup Distaff winners in Unbridled Elaine, Unrivaled Belle, and Forever Unbridled; and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map.

“Unbridled’s Song was majestic from the beginning,” Taylor Made’s Duncan Taylor said at the time of the stallion’s death. “Unbridled’s Song was one of those great horses. He had it all – looks, pedigree, speed, and presence.”

While Unbridled’s branch of the Fappiano line has consistently been prominent in American racing, Ride the Rails was less well known, as he spent the bulk of his stud career in Argentina and Uruguay. But everyone knew his name after Candy Ride, a champion miler in his native Argentina, came to the United States. He won his first two U.S. starts in California for trainer Ron McAnally, including the Grade 2 American Handicap on the Hollywood Park turf, before stepping up for a Grade 1 event at the classic 1 1/4-mile distance on dirt in the 2003 Pacific Classic. His brilliant 3 1/4-length victory over Medaglia d’Oro, in a Del Mar dirt record of 1:59.11, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 123, the highest of 2003.

“He’s as good a horse as I’ve ever trained,” McAnally told Daily Racing Form.

That turned out to be the final start of Candy Ride’s unbeaten career. After initially standing at Hill ‘n’ Dale, he moved to Lane’s End for the 2010 season and has been a consistent sire. In addition to Gun Runner, he has been represented by Eclipse Award champion Shared Belief and Grade 1 winners Ascend, Mastery, Misremembered, Separationofpowers, Sidney’s Candy, and Twirling Candy.

“They’re really nice horses,” said trainer John Sadler, who conditioned Sidney’s Candy and Twirling Candy. “They like to run and they’re game and they’re competitive. They come in all shapes and sizes.”

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Arrogate, who has retired to Juddmonte, and Gun Runner, who will start in the Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 27 before retiring to Three Chimneys Farm, will now get a chance to enhance the legacies of their sires.

The timing is right for Unbridled’s Song and Candy Ride each to have a breakout son, industry experts say.

“It tends to happen with every stallion,” said Grant Williamson, director of stallion sales and nominations at Three Chimneys. “You tend to find that their best stallion sons came later in their careers, because that’s when they reach the pinnacle and they get better-bred mares.”

In addition to Gun Runner, Three Chimneys also stands Will Take Charge, whose first crop will race as juveniles in 2018 after being well received at yearling auctions.

Gun Runner’s pedigree is “an outcross to every good North American mare,” co-owner Goncalo Torrealba of Three Chimneys said.

“Candy Ride, I think he belongs to America now. He’s a marvelous outcross to Tapits, to A.P. Indys, you name it.”

Lane’s End stands Twirling Candy alongside his sire and also welcomes Candy Ride’s graded stakes winner Unified to the stallion barn this year. The operation also has a young son of Unbridled’s Song in Liam’s Map, whose oldest foals are yearlings. Twirling Candy was the second-leading freshman sire of 2015, behind only Uncle Mo, and was represented by graded winners Danzing Candy, Finley’sluckycharm, and Morticia last year.

Along with Gun Runner and Unified, Candy Ride has a third son entering stud this year in unbeaten Mastery at Claiborne Farm.

Arrogate, Liam’s Map, and Will Take Charge are three accomplished young stallions for Unbridled’s Song, who has been only moderately successful with his sons. First Defence sired champion Close Hatches; Midshipman sired the consistent campaigner Lady Shipman; and Even the Score turned out a pair of Grade 1 winners in Dullahan and Take the Points.

“We’re really seeing the best sons of Unbridled’s Song to go to stud yet,” Juddmonte’s Aaron said. “That side of the line is ready to take off.”

If either side of the Fappiano line takes off in the coming years, comments Nerud made four years ago will turn out to be prophetic.

“I left some great breeding, didn’t I?” Nerud said.