03/21/2016 11:11AM

Sparkman: Tara's Tango adds to Grade 1 tally for Unbridled's Song

Benoit & Associates
Tara's Tango, by Unbridled's Song, wins Sunday's Grade 1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita.

Few stallions as successful as the late Unbridled’s Song have endured as much criticism from breeders and pedigree pundits. Despite the fact that Tara’s Tango is one of his 114 stakes winners and became his 20th Grade 1 winner in Saturday’s Santa Margarita, Unbridled’s Song, who died in 2013, went relatively out of fashion toward the end of his illustrious stud career.

After a spectacular beginning to his stud career propelled his progeny to the top of many a bloodstock agent’s shopping list, Unbridled’s Song developed a reputation for siring unsound horses. Over his long career as a stallion, however, the 1,675 foals age 3 and older by Unbridled’s Song have averaged 9.24 starts, which is closer than one would like to the average for the breed these days.

His average does, however, suffer somewhat in comparison to other comparably successful stallions born in roughly the same era. Smart Strike and Elusive Quality each averaged more than 11 starts per foal, Giant’s Causeway averages 10.84, while Distorted Humor has averaged an outstanding 13.41 starts per foal.

Whatever soundness limitations they may have, the Unbridled’s Songs are fast, just as he was himself. By the classic sire Unbridled out of Trolley Song, by Caro, Unbridled’s Song famously topped the 1995 Barretts sale of selected 2-year-olds in training on a record bid of $1.4 million. That sale was rescinded a few days later when buyer Hiroshi Fujita decided he did not like a suspicious ankle radiograph, so Unbridled’s Song raced for Ernie Paragallo, who had purchased him for $200,000 through bloodstock agent Buzz Chace at the 1994 Saratoga sale of selected yearlings.

Unbridled’s Song made Fujita look foolish by winning two of three starts later that year, including a thrilling victory over Hennessy in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That made him the winter favorite for the Kentucky Derby, and he validated that status with wins in the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial, but he came out of the latter race with a badly bruised left front foot.

Trainer Jim Ryerson elected to run Unbridled’s Song in an egg bar shoe to protect the injured foot in the Derby, but though he made the lead on the turn, he faded to fifth behind Grindstone. Beaten in his two remaining starts at age 3, Unbridled’s Song won the Olympic Handicap in his second start at 4 for trainer Nick Zito, but broke down shortly thereafter and retired to Taylor Made Farm.

He was an instant success as a sire, with nine stakes winners (counting both hemispheres) including Grade 1 winner Buddha in his first crop. More quickly followed, including Breeders’ Cup winners Unbridled Elaine, Unrivaled Belle, Midshipman, and Liam’s Map, as well as champions Will Take Charge and Midshipman.

Tara’s Tango is the eighth foal, third stakes winner, and second Grade 1 winner out of the stakes-placed French Deputy mare Scarlet Tango. Her second foal, Visionaire, by Grand Slam, won the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes and is now a successful sire in South Africa. Scarlet Tango’s seventh foal, Scarlet Strike, by Smart Strike, won the Grade 3 Providencia and ran second in the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes.

Scarlet Tango is a half-sister to stakes winners Dale’s Prospect, by Pioneering, and Our Commander, by Tenpins, and to Untangled, by Unbridled, dam of three stakes winners. Scarlet Tango’s dam, Silver Tango, by Silver Badge, was a prolific stakes winner of $474,892 on the Mid-Atlantic circuit and is a half-sister to stakes winner Sentimental Tango, by Sentimental Slew, dam of another prolific Maryland stakes winner Merengue, by Broad Brush, dam in turn of Grade 3 winner Point Determined, by Point Gvien.

The family has been a fixture in the Mid-Atlantic area since the 1940s, when Tara’s Tango’s seventh dam produced Bryan G., by Blenheim II, a good stakes winner and sire of champion Cicada, but it had not produced anything of Grade 1 quality in the interim until Visionaire and Tara’s Tango came along. Tara’s Tango is an outcross through the first five generations, unlike her half -brother Visionaire, who is inbred 4x5 to Northern Dancer with four additional crosses of Bold Ruler in the fifth and sixth generations.