04/27/2017 1:46PM

Unbridled's Song's classic swan song

Barbara D. Livingston
Battalion Runner could do what Arrogate and Will Take Charge haven't, make Unbridled's Song sire to a Triple Crown event winner.

Unbridled’s Song was a successful stallion throughout his life and has accomplished more posthumously than many stallions do in their whole careers, with two popular champions among his runners in the past four years.

But there is one hole in his résumé that he has a chance to fill next week. Kentucky Derby contender Battalion Runner, from his final crop of foals, represents his best, last chance to sire the winner of a Triple Crown event.

Unbridled’s Song himself was the favorite for the 1996 Kentucky Derby after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Florida Derby, and Wood Memorial. Hampered by a quarter crack and running in a bar shoe, the son of Unbridled struck the lead in the stretch before fading to finish a creditable fifth.

Unbridled’s Song entered stud at Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville, Ky., in 1997 and became the farm’s flagship sire, standing there until his death in the summer of 2013. That season, his son Will Take Charge won four graded stakes, including Grade 1 victories in the Travers Stakes and Clark Handicap, to earn an Eclipse Award as the year’s outstanding 3-year-old male.

And born earlier that year, just months before his sire’s death, was another future champion. Arrogate is now North America’s richest racehorse and is being hailed as an all-time great after ripping off victories in the $1.25 million Travers, the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup, and the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Since his death, Unbridled’s Song has been represented by Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map and Grade 1 winners Cross Traffic, Forever Unbridled, Tara’s Tango, and Unbridled Forever.

“It feels like I’ve spent the last 20 years being an apologist for Unbridled’s Song,” Mark Taylor said. “People constantly said, ‘[His offspring] are not sound, they’re not this, they’re not that.’ The bottom line is he’s a great stallion. You look at the last five years, he’s come up with Graydar, Cross Traffic, Will Take Charge, Arrogate. He just got better with age. His legacy is just enhanced by that, which gives us a lot of personal satisfaction.”

Unbridled’s Song covered 113 mares in his final season at stud, resulting in a final crop of 80 foals born in 2014, according to The Jockey Club’s Report of Mares Bred. One of those mares was the Tapit daughter Tamboz, a full sister to Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tapizar and already the dam of Grade 2-placed Oceanwave and stakes-placed Tiznoble.

Her resulting foal, Battalion Runner, sold for $700,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale and now races for St. Elias Stable. After an impressive allowance victory Feb. 3 in Florida, the colt was second to Irish War Cry in the Wood Memorial to earn his way into the Kentucky Derby.

“Going from allowance to a Grade 2, two turns, shipping all the way up to New York, I thought he ran a good race,” Byron Hughes, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, said after saddling the colt in the Wood. “He was on the front end doing all the heavy lifting. I thought he dug in, and according to Johnny [Velazquez], he just got a little green there. It was a big effort for his fourth start overall and first start in a graded stakes. It was his first start at a mile and an eighth, so it’s not disappointing.”

Unbridled’s Song has recorded two U.S. classic placings as a stallion, with the ill-fated filly Eight Belles finishing second to champion Big Brown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby prior to suffering a fatal injury and Dunkirk finishing second to champion Summer Bird in the 2009 Belmont Stakes.