Untamed Domain's racing career did not start out quite as smoothly as it did for his sire, top-10 freshman stallion Animal Kingdom , but the big bay colt is steadily maturing and has already captured a graded stakes that earned him a spot in the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T).
Trainer Graham Motion sees other similarities between father and son that may include an affinity for dirt as well as turf.
But first things first. Untamed Domain faces his toughest test to date in the Juvenile Turf, which includes seven other graded/group stakes winners in a full field of 16. Godolphin homebred Masar, the 9-2 morning-line favorite, is one of three contenders that have already placed in a group 1 stakes.
Masar became a group winner in the Betbright Solario Stakes (G3) and followed that with a third in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) at Chantilly. The other group 1-placed stakes winners are Mendelssohn, who was second to U S Navy Flag in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes (G1); and Beckford, a group 2 winner who was second in both the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (G1) and the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes (G1).
"I feel very good about running him," Motion said of Untamed Domain. "I'm a little startled at how competitive the Europeans seem to be this year. It seems like a very deep group with solid group form."
Untamed Domain was bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms and acquired by West Point Thoroughbreds for $90,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt's pedigree leans toward grass racing, being out of the graded-placed turf stakes winner Ciao, who is a daughter of French group 1 winner Lear Fan.
Even if his pedigree skewed toward dirt, it is likely Untamed Domain would have made his first start on grass anyway.
"I often start my 2-year-olds on the grass because I believe it is easier on them," Motion said. "They don't get all the kick-back and what have you."
Untamed Domain was a good student in his early training. Motion described him as professional, very generous, and very straightforward in the mornings, much like his sire.
"Certainly in physique and disposition, I see a lot of similarities," said Motion when comparing Untamed Domain to Animal Kingdom, who stands at Darley. "He is a big, strong colt. He has this remarkably kind disposition with a relaxed way about him."
When it came to racing, however, the learning curve was a bit steeper for the son.
"The first time I ran him, he got into a little trouble," Motion said of Untamed Domain's debut at Laurel Park, in which he finished a close fourth. "The second time I ran him at Saratoga Race Course, he won despite getting in trouble. Even in the With Anticipation, actually in his last two starts, he didn't have perfect trips. But the Animal Kingdoms running now are a little bit ahead of their time and learning as they go along."
Untamed Domain finished a close third in the With Anticipation Stakes (G3T) to Catholic Boy and Irish Territory but came out of the race so well that Motion urged West Point Thoroughbreds' president Terry Finley to roll the dice 2 1/2 weeks later at Woodbine in the Summer Stakes (G2T), a Breeders' Cup Challenge qualifier for the Juvenile Turf.
"I appreciate that Graham was not afraid to come to us after the race at Saratoga and say, 'I know it's quick back, but I'd love to take a look at the Summer Stakes'," Finley said. "We all know what the text book says, but sometimes you have to shake things up."
"I also worry when you get late into the fall, you never know what kind of turf you're going to get at Belmont or Keeneland, and as it is, the Keeneland race (Dixiana Bourbon Stakes, G3T) came off (turf)," Motion added about the decision to go to Woodbine.
Untamed Domain took a big step forward in the Summer Stakes, breaking slowly like he'd done in his first three starts, but showing much more grit and determination in the stretch as he chased down Hemp Hemp Hurray and Admiralty Pier to win by a neck.
"He is very determined, and it's worked out well for him because he's had plenty of time to freshen himself for this race," Motion said.
Motion's history with Animal Kingdom, who delivered the trainer a Run for the Roses trophy in the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), is a big reason Untamed Domain is in his barn, according to Finley.
"Graham had done an awesome job managing Animal Kingdom's career," he said. "And after Graham and Anita (Motion's wife) had gone to Australia to promote Animal Kingdom's first crop at the yearling sales, he came back and told me: 'Look, I know I'm biased, but these are really solid horses.' I had that in the back of my mind when we found this horse, who is an intelligent, smart-looking horse and pretty typical of the Animal Kingdoms with good bone."
Animal Kingdom had not raced on dirt until the Kentucky Derby, previously racing three times on all-weather surfaces and once on the grass prior to the first Saturday in May. Motion said he suspects Untamed Domain, who had three of his last four works on the dirt at the Fair Hill Training Center, possesses the same versatility.
"Honestly, I could see him running on the dirt in the future. From the dam side, the pedigree leans toward grass ... and because he has excelled at it, it has been hard for me to go back to the dirt. It is certainly something destined for him post-Breeders' Cup," Motion said.
Having a Breeders' Cup caliber runner with potential to blossom as a dirt runner at 3 is music to Finley's ears.
"I would not have any reservations about putting a circle around something at Gulfstream in the winter and see what we've got," Finley said. "He has quite a bit of quality to him, so then you just have to get lucky."