08/29/2016 9:29AM

Sparkman: Roller-Coaster ride for Unbridled's Song continues

Barbara D. Livingston
Arrogate, by Unbridled's Song, sets a track record in winning the Travers Stakes by 13 1/2 lengths.

Few, if any, Thoroughbreds have given their connections the kind of roller-coaster ride provided by the late Unbridled’s Song. Sold for a then-record $1.4 million at the 1995 Barrett’s sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, the thrill ride took a sickening turn two days later when the buyer returned the horse to former owner Ernie Paragallo because of a suspicious ankle radiograph.

Just eight months later, Paragallo was back on top of the world when Unbridled’s Song won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and he stayed there through victories in the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial the following spring that made him the Kentucky Derby favorite. Unbridled’s Song ran fifth in the Derby, hampered by a very sore foot protected by an egg-bar shoe, and never recovered his best form on the racetrack.

Unbridled’s Song’s stud career followed a similar pattern. He soared to the top of the commercial market after early success when Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine (out of Carols Folly, by Taylors Falls) and Grade 1 winner Songandaprayer (Alizea, by Premiership) appeared in his first crop, but buyers cooled on his progeny when soundness issues compromised the careers of many of his most talented runners.

Since his death in 2013, however, Unbridled’s Song has enjoyed something of a late-career renaissance. Last year, his brilliant son Liam’s Map (Miss Macy Sue, by Trippi) became his fourth Breeders’ Cup winner with a scintillating victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. And on Saturday, an exciting candidate for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic emerged when his son Arrogate ran away with the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, setting a track record of 1:59.36.

Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farm, Arrogate is the 118th stakes winner, 56th group or graded winner, and 22nd Grade 1 winner sired by Unbridled’s Song from 1,625 foals age 3 and up. That 7.3 percent stakes-winners-to-foals ratio is right in line with the standard set by most top 10 sires during the big-book era, but those 1,625 foals have averaged only 9.8 career starts, which is somewhat below the current average for the breed.

There is no denying, however, that Unbridled’s Song has sired a long series of seriously talented runners. Will Take Charge (Take Charge Lady, by Dehere) earned champion 3-year-old male honors in 2013, Midshipman was champion 2-year-old male of 2008, and Unrivaled Belle won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.

After his 13 1/2-length demolition of a good Travers field, Arrogate clearly belongs with that group in terms of talent. Juddmonte Farms purchased Arrogate for $560,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale on the advice of trainer Bob Baffert and his team, but he did not make it to the races until April, when he finished third in a six-furlong maiden at 1-2 odds. He has hardly been challenged in his four starts since, leading all the way in maiden and optional-claiming company at Santa Anita and then coming from just off the pace in an optional claimer at Del Mar, all at 1 1/16 miles.

Arrogate is the first foal out of Bubbler, by Distorted Humor, whose six wins in nine career starts included four stakes wins in Texas and Louisiana. Bubbler is half-sister to another listed stakes winner in Unbridled Femme, by Unbridled’s Song’s sire, Unbridled. Their dam, Grechelle, by Deputy Minister, placed in the Grade 3 Golden Rod Stakes and was the best runner produced by the brilliant champion 2-year-old filly of 1990, Meadow Star, by Meadowlake, whose 11 wins in 20 starts included six Grade 1’s. Meadow Star also is granddam of another Grade 1 winner Belle Gallantey, by After Market, winner of the Delaware Handicap and Beldame Stakes.

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Meadow Star’s dam, Inreality Star introduces what turned out to be a critical factor in Unbridled’s Song’s stud career, since, as her name implies, she was a daughter of In Reality. Seven of Unbridled’s Song’s 22 Grade 1 winners (Liam’s Map, Will Take Charge, Unrivaled Belle, Unbridled Elaine, Splendid Blended, Political Force, and First Defence) are inbred to In Reality, and an eighth (CCA Oaks winner Octave) is inbred to In Reality’s dam, 1959 champion 2-year-old filly My Dear Girl.

Bubbler has since produced a yearling filly by Medaglia d’Oro who is sure to attract plenty of lookers at the Keeneland September sale in a couple of weeks and a 2016 filly by Giant’s Causeway. She was covered last spring by Into Mischief.