10/18/2001 11:00PM

Unbridled euthanized

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Champion and successful young sire Unbridled, winner of the 1990 Kentucky Derby, was euthanized Thursday evening at 14 after a case of severe colic.

Unbridled had undergone two abdominal surgeries last month, and when he colicked on Thursday afternoon, attending veterinarians at the Hagyard Davidson McGee clinic in Lexington felt that the horse's symptoms were inoperable and terminal, according to Claiborne spokesperson Charles Koch.

"Everybody conferred and agreed that we were probably looking at a problem with adhesions" - post-surgical scarring that hinders gut motility - "after the earlier surgeries," Koch said. "He'd been through two surgeries in about three weeks, and you have to question whether or not there's much left to work with and whether there's a good chance of successful healing. All of that played a role in the decision to euthanize him."

Unbridled was euthanized at Hagyard Davidson McGee at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Unbridled underwent his first abdominal surgery on Sept. 21, when Dr. Robert Hunt removed three feet of the stallion's colon that farm officials described as "diseased and thickened." Tests determined that the stallion did not have cancer.

Attending veterinarians Dr. Doug Byars and Dr. Kim Sprayberry later discovered fluid leaking into Unbridled's abdomen and recommended a second surgery that took place on Sept. 27. Hunt repaired a small hole, roughly the size of a pencil eraser, at the site of the original bowel resection, farm officials reported at the time. Unbridled returned to the Hancock family's Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., on Oct. 8.

"In the last six days at the farm, to us, everything on the outside looked fantastic," said Koch. "He was bright, alert, shiny, and feeling good, almost playful. On Thursday after lunch, at about 1:30, he started showing signs of colic that progressed to severe colic."

Claiborne's resident veterinarian, Dr. David Harris, treated Unbridled with banamine to ease the horse's pain and called on Byars and Sprayberry, who rushed to the farm. At about 4 p.m., Koch said, Claiborne shipped the stallion to Hagyard Davidson McGee, where palpation and ultrasound suggested adhesions were the likely problem.

Koch said a group including Claiborne principal Seth Hancock, who was present at the clinic, made a unanimous decision to euthanize Unbridled. Also at the clinic were Claiborne stallion foreman Jim Zajic and Unbridled's stud groom, Joe Peel.

A post-mortem revealed that Unbridled did have adhesions.

With Unbridled, the breed lost one of its top stallions. Currently ranked ninth with 2001 progeny earnings of more than $4 million, Unbridled to date has sire 24 stakes-winners from seven crops, including 1998 champion 3-year-old filly Banshee Breeze, 1999 champion juvenile Anees,

1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet, and Grade 1 winners Exogenous, Unbridled's Song, Unshaded, and Manistique. He has lifetime progeny earnings of $25,475,841.

Unbridled stood at Claiborne for a private fee, but no-guarantee seasons on the open market brought prices of $225,000 this year. He has been buried in his entirety at Claiborne's Marchmont Cemetery, next to Majestic Light.

Among those most deeply affected by Unbridled's death was Hall of Famer Carl Nafzger, who trained the Derby and 1990 Breeders' Cup Classic winner for Frances A. Genter.

"It's sad, because he was a friend," said Nafzger, who received word of Unbridled's death Thursday evening. "How do you feel when you lose a friend? He never did let anybody down. He gave me confidence every time he ran."

Unbridled, a blaze-faced bay by Fappiano out of Gana Facil (Le Fabuleux), won $4,489,475 in three seasons. His Grade 1 victories all came in his championship season of 1990, in the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Breeders' Cup Classic.

The win that will be remembered longest is his Kentucky Derby, which provided one of the sport's most sentimental moments. As 92-year-old Genter, her eyesight too weak to see the race, listened intently, an emotional Nafzger called the final furlong of Unbridled's win.

Unbridled's death removes a solid cornerstone from Claiborne's stallion roster, which features such popular sires as Seeking the Gold and Danzig as well as a number of young stallions like Horse Chestnut, Pulpit, and Coronado's Quest.

Unbridled, who initially stood at Graham Beck's Gainesway Farm in Lexington for a $35,000 fee, joined Claiborne's roster in 1997 after the farm and Richard Santulli purchased him privately from Genter Stable for reportedly more than $18 million.

"He was pretty much the man out here," Koch said. "He's made a definite mark on the breed. He was a classy horse, and that came out in his offspring. Physically, he was a big, strong horse, and he passed that on. That lends itself to stamina, which is lacking in the breed.

"He was sort of like Secretariat, sort of a ham," remembered Koch, who said the farm had collected dozens of get-well letters from fans in recent weeks. "He liked to have his picture taken. He'd pose. Everybody that was around him loved him.

"His offspring were special," Koch added. "This loss hurts the whole industry."