06/30/2005 11:00PM

Unbridled's last crop adding to his legacy

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - When Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled was euthanized because of complications from colic surgery in the fall of 2001, it was obviously a sad day for the sport, for the breeders who were part of the syndicate that owned the stallion, and for Claiborne Farm, which stood Unbridled. The horse's death, however, has proven to be a loss of even greater significance because of the stallion's continuing importance to breeding and racing.

In part, this is due to Unbridled's position in Thoroughbred breeding as one of the few truly reliable sources of classic quality and stamina. Since the stallion's death, his most prominent offspring to race include champion Halfbridled, Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, Queen's Plate winner Niigon, and this year's Grade 1 winners Eddington and Smuggler.

The most recent of these top racers is the filly Smuggler, who won the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont, defeating the winners of this year's Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.

Unfortunately, this listing of high-quality racehorses by Unbridled is not going to increase much in the future, as Smuggler is from the last crop by her sire, horses that were conceived in 2001 and born in 2002. Also from this crop is the graded-stakes-placed filly Salute, a daughter of unbeaten champion Personal Ensign.

As evident from the quality of his offspring, Unbridled offered an unusual combination of qualities, the blend of speed and stamina essential to top-quality racehorses. On the racetrack, he showed his best form not only at 10 furlongs, winning the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic, but also at seven furlongs, when defeated champion sprinter Housebuster in the Deputy Minister Handicap.

Unbridled's combination of the best Thoroughbred traits was a continuing legacy from his grandsire, Mr. Prospector, who sired horses of great speed and classic potential, and his sire, Fappiano. Added to this patrimony were the additional contributions of exceptional speed and classic ability, respectively, from Fappiano's broodmare sire Dr. Fager and from Unbridled's broodmare sire Le Fabuleux.

Aside from his athletic ability and gameness, the other quality most noted about Unbridled was his size. Standing 16-3 hands, Unbridled was so big you could get lost just looking at him. And the big bay had the length, depth of shoulder, and width across the hips to propel his immense frame around the track very quickly.

In fact, as large as Unbridled seemed when standing close to him, he was so thoroughly balanced in shape and proportion that his size was not apparent from just a short distance away.

The stallion's extra bit of size was an inheritance from his maternal grandsire Le Fabuleux, whom Unbridled resembled in several respects. With so many positives, the only fly in the gravy to Unbridled's success as a stallion was his lack of perfectly conformed forelegs. Even so, they carried Unbridled to some tremendous victories.

To date, Unbridled has sired 43 stakes winners (8 percent from foals), including the additional 2005 Grade 1 winner Eddington, who was retired to stud this week following a soft-tissue injury to his right foreleg. Claiborne had purchased an interest in the breeding rights to Eddington not long before the colt won the Pimlico Special last month.

"Eddington is more like Unbridled than any other son in temperament, size, and ability," said Bernie Sams, Claiborne's stallion director. "The only difference is color, and this horse is much more correct. Both were extremely talented and consistent, and when people see this horse, they just love him."

Breeders also loved Unbridled and dug deep into their pockets to retain the stallion when he was the subject of a determined bidding war that included a pair of overseas entities. The result was that breeders with vision were able to purchase the stallion and stand him at Claiborne. Then they sent him some of their best broodmares.

One of these was the champion racemare Inside Information (by Private Account), and her bay daughter Smuggler is nearly as talented as her dam. A winner of 14 of her 17 starts, Inside Information captured a half-dozen Grade 1 stakes, including the Breeders' Cup Distaff and the Spinster.

Talented and successful as she was on the racetrack, Inside Information had been snakebit as a broodmare. None of her first four foals raced (two died), and Smuggler and her year-older full brother Manipulator were the mare's first two winners.

Now, Smuggler has made considerable improvement in her dam's produce record, with four victories from her six starts and a Grade 1 triumph.

Inside Information does not have a 2-year-old, but her yearling is a filly by Broad Brush named Collusion. Last year, Inside Information proved barren to the top Florida stallion Montbrook, but she is currently in foal to Unbridled's Song (by Unbridled), which would make the resulting foal closely related to Smuggler.