She went from being the answer to a trivia question to a champion in the space of exactly one year.
Forever Unbridled, the anonymous third-place finisher in the 2016 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1), the race for the ages that ended with Beholder and Songbird a nostril apart after a ding-dong duel through the Santa Anita Park stretch, defeated a star-studded field in the 2017 version of the Distaff at Del Mar, securing her place as champion older dirt female for the season.
Forever Unbridled, who raced as a 5-year-old in 2017, is a gem nurtured by Canadian diamond hunter Charles Fipke, who bred and races the bay mare by 2017 leading North American sire Unbridled's Song, out of Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Lemons Forever. At the 2007 Keeneland November mixed sale, Fipke was shopping for the best-conformed broodmare prospect he could find.
"When I saw Lemons Forever, she was absolutely gorgeous," he said. "She was from an Argentine family, same as Personal Ensign. I was sold on her pedigree, and then I was sold again when I saw her."
After parting with $2.5 million for her, Fipke tracked down her trainer, Dallas Stewart, to find out about the mare. That fortuitous huddle ended with Fipke sending Stewart horses to train, including full sisters Unbridled Forever and Forever Unbridled, each of whom Stewart guided to grade 1 victories.
"She's hard to describe," Stewart told the BloodHorse's Gary McMillen of Forever Unbridled. "Something beyond special. She was immature on the farm, then showed huge improvement from 3 to 4. She's spectacular in her training and never misses a beat. I've never brought a horse to the paddock that looked better than she did on Breeders' Cup day."
A bone chip removed after the 2016 Distaff delayed the start of Forever Unbridled's 2017 campaign, but she made up in quality what she lacked in quantity for the season. Her curtain-lifter came in the June 17 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2), which she won by 1 3/4 lengths at nine furlongs, the distance she exclusively raced at throughout the year.
Given a break until Aug. 26, Forever Unbridled returned in the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1), in which she had finished third a year before. Given the heavy lift of trying to run down dual champion Songbird after that 4-year-old had set moderate fractions around the Saratoga Race Course oval, Forever Unbridled unleashed a ferocious rally, nailing Songbird by a neck in front of a grandstand full of disbelieving observers.
Under the radar no more, she was sent off as the third-choice behind Elate and champion Stellar Wind in the Distaff. Forever Unbridled came with her run from well off the pace, grabbed the lead in upper stretch, and held off a determined bid by Abel Tasman to take the Distaff by a half-length.
Her perfect three-for-three campaign added $1,595,280 to her coffers, and Forever Undbridled has now tallied nearly $3.2 million in earnings for Fipke, who has expressed a desire to race her again in 2018.