12/19/2014 10:02AM

Sparkman: Map to stardom for Unbridled's Song colt

Natalie Fawkes/Coglianese Photos
Liam’s Map, a son of Unbridled’s Song, is named for the silk map of former special operations soldier Liam Collins, a graduate of West Point.

It was with considerable surprise that I read the results of the fourth session of the 2012 Keeneland September sale on Sept. 13, 2012. I had left Kentucky for my home in Tennessee earlier that day with the understanding that my part-time employer Vincent Viola was finished buying at the sale.

Instead, Viola’s St. Elias Stable, with J.J. Crupi as agent, was listed as the buyer of the third-highest-priced horse of the session, an $800,000 Unbridled’s Song colt out of Miss Macy Sue, by Trippi. A little over two years on, that colt, Liam’s Map, captured his first stakes on Dec. 13 in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Viola, a Wall Street executive and former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange, had re-entered the Thoroughbred market the previous year in partnership with Terry Finley’s West Point Thoroughbreds, when yours truly had been retained as pedigree analyst with the goal of building a first-class broodmare band as well as a racing stable. St. Elias and West Point purchased a Tapit colt at the same sale who this year won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes, and Grade 3 Saranac Stakes under the name Ring Weekend.

Jimmy Crupi, who had picked out a number of graded stakes winners including champion Uncle Mo for Viola’s friend Mike Repole, had found Liam’s Map, and the big, handsome gray became the second horse he bought for Viola and his wife, Teresa. Viola, a West Point graduate like Finley, named the colt Liam’s Map in honor of another West Pointer, Liam Collins, one of the first special operations soldiers to enter Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001. Collins later became director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, which is privately funded by Viola. Each special-ops soldier carries a silk survival map of the area that can mean the difference between life and death when in the field. Collins later transitioned to a professorship in charge of the Defense and Strategic Studies program at West Point, and at the traditional Hail and Farewell ceremony, he gave Viola his Afghanistan survival map in recognition of Viola’s support of West Point.

Viola sent Liam’s Map to trainer Todd Pletcher, but though he possessed obvious ability, the colt showed signs of the suspensory problems that often plague the offspring of Unbridled’s Song (the same injury that caused that brilliant runner’s retirement), and was sent back to Crupi’s New Castle Farm in Ocala, Fla., and turned out for six months. Liam’s Map returned to the track in June 2014 and did not make his first start until Aug. 23 at Saratoga, when he ran a green but highly promising second to Three Alarm Fire in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race.

Liam’s Map cruised to a 9 1/2-length victory in his second start about a month later in a one-mile maiden race at Belmont Park, running the distance in 1:34.72, and followed up with an even more impressive 11 1/2-length allowance win at Aqueduct, running the mile in 1:35.67.
Those fast times made it obvious that Liam’s Map was a stakes horse in the making, and he confirmed that potential against older horses in the Harlan’s Holiday, stalking the pace of multiple graded winner Csaba, and then fighting off the rally of Grade 2 winner Valid to win by a half-length in 1:42.51 for the 1 1/16 miles, running a Beyer Speed Figure of 111.

Bred in Kentucky by the Albaugh Family Stable, Liam’s Map is the second foal out of Miss Macy Sue, a fast, tough, sound, and consistent racemare who won 11 of her 25 starts over four seasons, with eight placings, earning $880,915. Bred in Florida by Bryan Howlett, Miss Macy Sue sold for $42,000 to agent Tom McCrocklin at the 2005 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. June sale of 2-year-olds in training.

She won her third and final start at 2 at Hawthorne for trainer Kelly Von Hemel in the silks of Roll Reroll Stables and followed up by winning her first two starts at 3 by wide margins in six-furlong allowance races at Prairie Meadows. Miss Macy Sue then opened a 15-length lead early in the one-mile Panthers Stakes at Prairie Meadows, but faded in the stretch to finish fourth, and raced beyond six furlongs only once more in 19 subsequent starts.

Miss Macy Sue placed in three stakes at 3, but did not win her first black-type race until her first start as a 4-year-old when she ran six furlongs in 1:10.29 at Oaklawn Park when winning the Carousel Stakes. That initial stakes win was followed quickly by victories in the Prairie Rose and Saylorville at Prairie Meadows, and the Grade 3 Winning Colors Stakes at Churchill Downs, the highlight of her racing career. Miss Macy Sue rallied from mid-pack to beat Cuaba by 2 1/4 lengths in the Winning Colors, running the distance in 1:08.68.

Miss Macy Sue ran 1:08 and change twice more in her racing career, winning the Presque Isle Downs Masters in 1:08.21 and another edition of the Saylorville in 1:08.03. Late in her career she was sold to the Albaugh family and carried the colors of Dennis Albaugh in her final two starts.

Miss Macy Sue carried an exceptionally intriguing pedigree to the breeding shed. Her sire, Trippi, was one of the best sons of the very good Florida-based sire End Sweep, by Forty Niner, despite a rather awkward, pounding action. Winner of seven of the first nine of his 14 starts, including the Grade 1 Vosburgh, Trippi has been a successful sire both in Florida and in South Africa, where he now stands. Trippi has sired 51 stakes winners, including Grade 1 or Group 1 winners R Heat Lightning, For the Lads, and Afrikaburn.

Miss Macy Sue is a half-sister to Alnajim Almodeea, a colt by Exchange Rate who was rated champion 3-year-old in Saudi Arabia. Miss Macy Sue’s second dam, Yada Yada, by Great Above, is a half-sister to minor stakes winners Reporter, by Notebook, and Dinner Affair, by Who’s for Dinner, but that is a relatively minor part of the story.

Yada Yada’s sire, Great Above, by Minnesota Mac, was the best son of the great sprinter Ta Wee, by Intentionally, who also happens to be the third dam of Yada Yada. Thus Yada Yada is inbred 2x3 to Ta Wee, one of the best female sprinters in American racing history.

Furthermore, Great Above, who is also the sire of the great Holy Bull, was closely related to the immortal Dr. Fager, Ta Wee’s half-brother.
Dr. Fager was by Rough’n Tumble out of Aspidistra, while Great Above was by Rough’n Tumble’s son Minnesota Mac out of Aspidistra’s daughter Ta Wee. Aspidistra, by Better Self, the sixth dam of Liam’s Map, was one of the most influential broodmares of the 20th century. Her great son and leading sire Dr. Fager remains the only American racehorse to earn four championships in the same year: Horse of the Year, champion older horse, champion sprinter, and champion grass horse in 1968. Aspidistra is also the fourth dam of champion Unbridled, sire of Liam’s Map’s sire, Unbridled’s Song. Unbridled’s sire, Fappiano, is out of Dr. Fager’s daughter Killaloe. Thus Liam’s Map’s pedigree carries four crosses of Aspidistra within the first six generations.

Although Unbridled’s Song never earned a championship, he was perhaps the most talented member of the 1993 generation of American racehorses. He first earned fame as the world’s first seven-figure sale at a 2-year-olds in training sale. That $1.4 million sale was rescinded a few days later because of a questionable radiograph, but Unbridled’s Song proved his worth by capturing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that fall in just his third start.

Unbridled’s Song raced to easy victories in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 2 Wood Memorial at 3, and started as favorite for the Kentucky Derby despite running in an egg bar shoe to protect a bruised hoof. Though his glorious action carried him into the lead on the final turn, the injury caught up to him and he finished a gallant fifth.

Retired with a record of five wins in 12 starts, he has been a brilliant success at stud despite developing a reputation for siring unsound horses. Liam’s Map is his 108th stakes winner from 1,456 foals age 3 and up (7.4 percent), including 2013 champion 3-year-old male Will Take Charge, 2008 champion 2-year-old male Midshipman, Canadian champion Embur’s Song, and Breeders’ Cup winners Unrivaled Belle and Unbridled Elaine.

Miss Macy Sue has since produced the Medaglia d’Oro filly Taylor S, who was retained by the Albaugh family and has won 2 of 4 starts this year and ran third in the Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill. Miss Macy Sue’s 2013 foal by Malibu Moon died, and she produced a colt by Giant’s Causeway this year and was covered by Bodemeister.

Liam’s Map clearly possesses the brilliance for which the Unbridled’s Songs are noted and is likely to be pointed for the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. If he remains sound, he may well prove worthy of the courageous soldier for whom he is named.