Leading sire Unbridled's Song, the flagship stallion for Nicholasville-based Taylor Made Farm, was euthanized at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital on Friday as a result of a large mass in multiple sinus cavities and around the optic nerves.
The 20-year-old son of Unbridled began showing signs of neurological problems Thursday, and he was taken to the clinic. An MRI revealed an invasive and aggressive mass that was deemed inoperable.
A regal presence at 17 hands tall with a gray coat that brightened in its ivory tones each season, Unbridled's Song was that exceptional triple threat who checked every possible box of success in the industry.
After selling for a then-world record $1.4 million at the 1995 Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training, Unbridled's Song would become a multiple Grade I winner and would earn more than $1.3 million on the racetrack before retiring to Taylor Made for his entire stud career. His stud fee peaked at $200,000 in 2007.
"He was basically our first stallion at Taylor Made, and he was one of the few horses that ever lived up to the expectations of him from Day 1," said Ben Taylor, vice president of Taylor Made Stallions. "He sold for a lot of money as a juvenile, went on to win the Breeders' Cup and was a great sire."
"Our team loved him from the beginning," Taylor Made President Duncan Taylor said. "I appreciate and am proud of the job our team did with the management of this magnificent horse."
Unbridled's Song seemed destined for headlines even in his early days. After buying the horse at the Barretts sale, Hiroshi Fujita asked to return the colt to previous owner Ernie Paragallo when X-rays revealed a possible ankle problem. Paragallo took Unbridled's Song back, famously declaring that he would "win the Breeders' Cup" with his colt — and his equine star made good on that promise when he captured the 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
The precociousness that yielded further triumphs, including his 1996 Grade I Florida Derby score, was a hallmark of Unbridled's Song's best offspring. Included among his 100 stakes winners were champion Midshipman, winner of the 2008 Breeders' Cup Juvenile; 2001 Breeders' Cup Distaff heroine Unbridled Elaine; 2010 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Unrivaled Belle; and multiple Grade I winners Octave, Thorn Song and Splendid Blended.
Unbridled's Song routinely stamped his babies with his striking size, classy attitude and brilliance, making them much sought-after at public auction. So too, however, were some of the soundness problems that plagued his racing career also passed on.
Sadly, the offspring that most landed Unbridled's Song in the media spotlight was multiple graded stakes-winning filly Eight Belles, who broke down seconds after running second in the 2008 Kentucky Derby and was euthanized. Despite critiques of what some observers perceived as widespread fragility among his offspring, Unbridled's Song remained one of the most commercially popular — if not polarizing — stallions in the breeding ranks.
"Looking back, he had a Grade I winner out of a Storm Cat mare early in his career, and from that day forward, we started getting Storm Cat mare after Storm Cat mare who came from great pedigrees that didn't have long racing careers," Ben Taylor said. "And when a big percentage of your book has a soundness issue on the other side as well, it just magnifies itself.
"I don't think he was a great source of soundness. But I don't think he deserved to be knocked for being an unsound stallion."
According to Taylor Made, Unbridled's Song had 26 seven-figure yearlings from 14 crops, including Dunkirk, who topped the 2007 Keeneland September Yearling Sale when he was sold to representatives of Coolmore Stud for $3.7 million.
Bred in Kentucky by Mandysland Farm out of the Caro mare Trolley Song, Unbridled's Song stood the 2013 breeding season for an advertised fee of $60,000.
"The game is really going to miss him," said Walt Robertson, vice president of sales for Keeneland. "He was certainly a handsome horse, and he reproduced that."
Unbridled's Song has 45 graded stakes winners to date — including this year's Grade I Donn Handicap winner Graydar — from 14 crops of racing age with progeny earnings of $89,238,241.
"Sometimes when you get a really good horse, they just stand out, and whenever you brought him to show him to someone, he would just pose like a statue," Ben Taylor said. "He was just a class horse. Whenever you have a good one like that, it's hard to lose them."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: Horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.