Tony Leonard

Unbridled Unleashed

One might wonder why the Unbridled sire line has seemed to be spectacular in spurts.

Last year we ruminated over the apparent contraction of sire lines when it came to previewing the 2-year-old sales. In that article and others we concluded the A.P. Indy line was dominant but that one should not underestimate the ability of the Unbridled and Storm Cat lines to make impacts.

We included biomechanical observations in our expanded studies on the A.P. Indy line, including some displays of where these stallions were positioned on our Phenotype Target (“How a Sire Line Develops,” June 24, 2016). As it turned out, the A.P. Indy sire line had a very serious year, but almost hidden among  the  story  lines  was  what was going on with one of the other lines—that of Unbridled.

The line had seemed to be dominated by progeny of his son Unbridled’s Song and Unbridled’s Song’s sons. Another major son, Broken Vow, was doing well but had yet to have a top-notch colt. Almost an afterthought was his classic-winning son, Empire Maker, who’d made an impact before he was exported to Japan. Then just before he returned to Kentucky Empire Maker’s son Pioneerof the Nile welcomed daddy home with his son American Pharoah’s sweeping the Triple Crown.

Since then things have been up and down for the whole sire line. With more than 20 sons at stud, the verdict is still out as to whether Unbridled’s Song will emerge as a significant sire-of-sires. Most of his sons with decent records tended to be those that excelled at shorter distances, or who had short racing careers, such as Songandaprayer, Rockport Harbor, Old Fashioned, Zensational, and Midshipman. Others were not given much of a chance at establishing themselves after disappointing early crops. Others, such as Cross Traffic, Will Take Charge, and Graydar, are waiting on their first crops.

Then Liam’s Map came along in the second half of 2015 and won the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Not long after Liam’s Map retired to stud, Arrogate emerged as a spectacular racing machine, blowing away his grade 1 opposition from the Travers Stakes to the Breeders’ Cup Classic to the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes to the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline. And just last month Unbridled’s Song’s son Battalion Runner added his name to the Triple Crown contender list with a gritty second in the Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G2). 

Meanwhile, the “other half” of the Unbridled line, that through Empire Maker, was beginning to stir. Not only did Pioneerof the Nile get American Pharoah, but also his son Classic Empire won the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in 2016—on the same card that Broken Vow’s daughter Champagne Room won the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).  

Also in 2016, Empire Maker’s son Bodemeister, an Arkansas Derby (G1) winner who had bang-up runner-up finishes in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1), ranked third among freshmen sires. Now Bodemeister’s tactically similar son Always Dreaming is in contention for the classics—and he is a stablemate of Battalion Runner.

With all this explosive success, one might wonder why this sire line has seemed to be spectacular in spurts. Part of the reason could be phenotypical. On the Phenotype Target accompanying this article are all the stallions from this line that have been analyzed. They are depicted in various colors. Note that both Unbridled (in purple) and Unbridled’s Song (in black) are almost equally balanced in terms of weight, power, and stride factors.

The rest of this crowd are all over the place, with about half of them lightly made, which in historical biomechanical terms suggests inconsistency. This is not surprising because another physical factor is in play: Unbridled and Unbridled’s Song, as well as Empire Maker and Broken Vow, are larger than average, which often is coupled with lighter body mass. That combination often generates speed while heavier bodies tend to be plodders—which is something you can certainly not say about this sire line.