What Will Be Unbridled's Song's Legacy After 100th Stakes Winner?

(By Avalyn Hunter)

Unbridled's Song has been one of the more polarizing horses of recent years. A horse whose racing career flashed remarkable ability yet never quite delivered on the promise of greatness, his stud career has followed something of the same pattern. He has been a good sire of stakes winners and sales horses, yet has often been criticized--justly or unjustly--as a source of unsoundness. And while he has 15 grade I winners to his credit, including champion Midshipman, none have had that transcendent spark that sets the legends apart.

Whether he has finally gotten a horse with that spark in Graydar, his 100th stakes winner, is yet to be seen, but he certainly hit the century mark with a flourish. Allowed to cruise unmolested on the lead, the lightly weighted Graydar proved to have plenty left in the stretch when the late runners launched their bids, and galloped home in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) in just his fourth lifetime start. He is now 3-for-4 lifetime and would seem to have plenty of potential for greater things.

The next several years will be pivotal in determining the long-range influence Unbridled's Song will have on the breed. He has no fewer than eight sons among this year's freshman sires, including the brilliant sprinter Zensational; multiple grade I winner Thorn Song will be a freshman sire of 2014, albeit with a small initial crop, as will Midshipman. Given that the earlier sons of Unbridled's Song have not exactly lit the breeding world on fire and that the early crops of grade I winners Political Force (now in Saudi Arabia) and First Defence have yet to show much, Unbridled's Song may well be dependent on his younger sons (and perhaps his multiple grade I-winning grandson Dullahan, by Even the Score) to continue his male line. He may also be dependent on his younger daughters for his name as a broodmare sire, given rather disappointing results in that area so far: The best runner produced by his daughters to date is millionaire Better Than Ever, a multiple highweight in Singapore. Time will tell whether Unbridled's Song becomes an important name in pedigrees or just another talented horse who never quite delivered on his promise.


Leave a Comment:

Lindsey S

When was Political Force sold to Saudi Arabia?!  I must have missed that one. I'll miss seeing him at Claiborne. That's too bad, because he raced until he was five, and he retired sound. I know a lot of people liked him for that reason.

12 Feb 2013 7:26 AM

Ms. Hunter:

I think your piece is right on the mark, paragraph by paragraph. None of his male runners have approached his seeming level of ability. A few of his fillies may have come close. While similar scenarios have occurred before, irrespective of book quality, one could argue that U.S., by and large, didn't receive enough quality mates for a racehorse/stallion of his stature.

12 Feb 2013 8:33 PM

Eight Bells heart breaking  breakdown occured on a world wide broadcast of the Kentucky derby. The North Amerian TB industry's knee jerk reaction was nothing more than a witch hunt in my opinion and it resulted in the wrongful character assination of her trainer Larry Jones by suggesting he used PED's that led to her break down. Unbridleds Song was also unfairly labled a " source of unsoundness by the witch hunters as well. This was unfair because it was not based on any objective criteria. If it was based on objective criteria, we would know what the average breakdowns per 100 starters for all stallion in North America vs Unbridled's Song just like measuring the  racing success stallion progeny. In my opinion the unfair lable of "source of unsoundness" is totally subjective by those who were under scrutiny of a very public break down .There was absolutely no supporting data for such an unfair lable.

Unbridleds Song has produed 100 stake winners, 15 grade 1 winners, nine millionaires and you state that he might " just be a horse who never quite delivered on his promise" Really ? By all objective measurements Unbridleds Song has delivered everything as a sire. to suggest he hasnt is to ignore epirical data that says he has been one of the best of his generation.

13 Feb 2013 10:44 AM


I disagree with much of what you posted.

Firstly, the distinction between objective and subjective criteria is often blurred. While sire breakdown stats aren't "published" per se, those who follow the sport closely can get a sense of the variations from sire to sire. In the case of U. Song's relative propensity to sire "unsoundness" I'd posit that the verdict may be a bit complicated/ and/or the jury's still out. U. Song tends to sire size, speed, and precocity. The latter two attributes tend to be stimuli for earlier, rather than later initial starts. Also, in and of itself, speed combined with size makes one, all else equal, more vulnerable to injury. So, it's possible that U. Song is not transmitting (genetically) a more negative physiology/"anatomy" related to unsoundess, but that "environmental" factors (taken in the broadest sense) interacting with his particular "type" may result in a greater than average % of unsoundness among his offspring.

Re-your comments about Eight Belles:

I wouldn't characterize it as a "witch hunt" as it concerned Larry Jones. For that matter, it seemed that he played the press and public to gain quite a bit of positive perception. For me the issue was never whether or not PEDs played a role, but rather her degree of relative soundness leading up to the Derby along with the intesity of her campaign previous to it. In other words-to what degree was she an accident waiting to happen? Rather than it being a witch hunt, I think these questions weren't adequately addressed. Despite what some may believe, her post mortem couldn't address these issues.  

13 Feb 2013 7:07 PM


Subjective evaluations are based on the evaluators opinion and personal biases as we know. We also know that objective evaluation is based on all available facts. The author of this blog stated US has been a source of unsoundness whether it has been fairly or unfairly earned. The facts do not support this unfair perception.US'has sired 50% winners from foals which is slightly above average. Is this an indication of unsound horses? I do not think reasonable breeders or owners would broad brush (no pun intended)any sire as a source of unsoundness with above average winners from starters.Due to the residual values of his mares many top owners would rather not drop one into a claiming race for a win that would only diminish their values. We have seen this phenomina with stallions owned by mega-wealthy UAE royal families.Claiming races are not an option for a lot of their fillies and mares.

I agree with your analolgy of the phenotypes that are produced by this sire. His foals tend to be large and can posess loads and loads of speed. To take a 16 hand yearling purchased in September and have it breezing an eighth mile  in 10.0  for the Feb to April two year old sales and have any horse left to race, takes great skill posesed by only a few top notch pin hookers.More good horses are unraced due to the lack of this skill by the cookie cutter pin hookers. Phenotypes such as these that posess great amount of speed must not be pushed too hard early because their inmature bodies are not developed enough to handle the speed.They can be excellent fall 2 year old stakes winners but are not great pinhooking 2yos for the average pinhooker.

You might not characterize the actions of regulators and industry groups as a witch hunt after Eight Bells break like I do. But what do you call the unfair lables not supported by any objective fact placed on an obvious world class quality producing stallion. Everyone has the right to an opinion even though it might not be supported by indisputed facts. This stallion and its connections deserve more respect than was shown by the statements made by the blog author. The facts have a way of disproving the unfair rap. Go Graydar.  

14 Feb 2013 3:39 PM


As you well know, % winners/starters is not a particularly revealing stat relative to soundness. % starters/foals, starts/yr (as compared to stallions of similar ilk) would, perhaps, be more telling. I've bred to U.S. and consider him to be somewhat underrated. It's also interesting to note that he seems to have now more turf performers (than in earlier years)...I cannot fault the blog author for any of her statements. Look again, she didn't say that he was a source of unsoundness--although he may very well be.

14 Feb 2013 5:23 PM


US's Dam Trolley Song has an all euro pedigree top and bottom which explains an afinity for the turf. US full brother Spanish Steps sired Little Mike who is one of the top turf horses in the world. Little Mike won the Breeders Cup Turf, The Arlington Million and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. The turf versatility lable is earned and documented.

15 Feb 2013 11:02 AM

Recent Posts

More Blogs