Unbridled Belle has lived in the shadow of her more illustrious stablemates for most of her career. But when Todd Pletcher trainees Rags to Riches, Indian Vale, Panty Raid, and Octave stepped out of the spotlight, the grade I-winning Broken Vow filly got her chance to shine.
Bred in Kentucky out of the Silver Buck mare Little Bold Belle by Joe Sutton and Laszlo Makk, Unbridled Belle was consigned to Keeneland’s September yearling sale in 2004 by Taylor Made Sales Agency. There, trainer Gary Capuano purchased the filly for a mere $4,000 on behalf of Baltimore native Paul Fowler Jr. A little more than a year later, she broke her maiden at first asking by an impressive 3 1/4 lengths. That was when Team Valor president Barry Irwin came on the scene.
Irwin purchased the filly privately in November 2005. Twenty individuals bought into the Unbridled Belle partnership, including residents of Missouri, Ohio, California, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Canada, Michigan, Illinois, Nevada, Florida, and Pennsylvania. The filly went with Pletcher’s string to Florida, where she finished an uninspiring ninth in her first race for the Eclipse Award-winning trainer. Other than a sixth-place finish in the Coaching Club of America Oaks (gr. I) in 2006, it would be the only time she finished worse than fourth in her career.
This year, Unbridled Belle is at the top of her game and has two wins and two seconds from four 2007 starts. After a second-place finish in the Obeah Handicap, she won the Delaware Handicap (gr. II) by 7 3/4 lengths, and her three-length loss to Miss Shop in the Aug. 24 Personal Ensign (gr. I) at Saratoga was redeemed by a gutsy win in the Sept. 3 Beldame (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
Why hasn’t Unbridled Belle earned the same notice (and respect from bettors) as her fellow Pletcher trainees?
Irwin has a theory. “I call it 'the other Pletcher’ factor,” he said. “If Pletcher has more than one horse in a race, the one that’s ridden by John Velazquez is considered to be the better horse. Well, John Velazquez doesn’t ride for us (anymore) . . . Now we use Ramon Dominguez or Garrett Gomez. It can be aggravating when you have a horse you think is pretty good.”
Assured of an automatic berth to the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park thanks to her Beldame win (part of the "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge), Unbridled Belle has proven to be at least “pretty good” -- and could end up being a lot more on Breeders' Cup day.
“She’s coming into the race the right way,” Irwin said. “It’ll only be her fifth start this year, and whereas most horses have pooped out by now, she’s just peaking.”
Broken Vow stands at Pin Oak Stud in Kentucky for a fee of $25,000 live foal.