Unbridled Danger was well-bred and full of promise when he was a yearling. His breeders are known to often present their best yearlings to purchase on the public market, and in 2004, the steel gray dropped the hammer for $120,000 at the Keeneland September Sale.
He went to trainer Eddie Woods in Ocala, Fla., to prepare for the following year's 2-year-olds in training sales but didn't turn the same profit his second time through the ring, RNA-ing for $130,000.
His first start saw him finish a competitive third behind eventual Grade 1 winners Political Force and Flashy Bull, but Unbridled Danger never attained the same success as his early peers.
All in all, Unbridled Danger stepped into the starting gate on 113 race days, winning ten of those starts. He came by his lifetime earnings of $341,978 the hard way, mostly in starter allowances and claiming races, but for most of his life he earned his keep and paid his way.
As his level of racing declined, the frequency with which he raced increased.
“I got a phone call that Unbridled Danger needed to get a new home ASAP,” said Erin Pfister, manager at New York-based Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue. “He'd had a year off and was back at the track (at age 10). He'd had a workout and apparently came up sore.”
Erin called trainer and OTTB advocate Rick Schosberg, one of the driving forces behind New York's Take the Lead and TAKE2 programs aimed at rehoming and promoting off-track Thoroughbreds, and asked him to take a look at Unbridled Danger.
Rick reported back that the gelding's legs were not pretty and that while the Take the Lead program, which places retiring racehorses with approved adoption facilities, typically focuses on horses who are riding and adoption prospects, he felt Unbridled Danger was a horse that deserved to be put through the program.
“…from the day they're born until their last race, all [racehorses] do is give of themselves,” Rick told Forbes in a 2013 interview. “What we have to realize is that the process doesn't end when they've run their last race. We have to think of it as you'd think of a pension plan for retirees in the business world.”
Heather Carlsen, head trainer and adoption coordinator at Akindale, said that over-running a horse or trying to train them through injuries not only devalues the horse as a racehorse over time but limits its potential as a viable riding horse once it retires.
“Some of the injuries that happen could be lessened or avoided if the initial injury were treated as a big thing rather than as a common racehorse injury that can be trained through,” explained Heather.
She said some trainers and owners simply don't think about — or don't understand — that the treatment of an injury or the decision to rehabilitate and continue to race rather than to retire a horse after a major injury can significantly limit that horse's athletic viability and quality of life in the years (and in many cases, the decades) following the conclusion of its racing career.
Unbridled Danger was one of those cases. The wear and tear on his legs from years of constant racing without enough rest resulted in degeneration so significant that he would not hold up to even light riding long term.
Lucky for him, the team at Akindale and Take the Lead made sure he had a safe place to land.
“Unbridled Danger will remain a permanent resident at Akindale and will continue to live his life to the fullest, eating peppermints and greeting visitors,” said Erin.
For information about the horses available for adoption from Akindale or to find out how you can make a difference in the lives of horses like Unbridled Danger, please visit www.akindalehorserescue.org.
If you have or know of a retired Thoroughbred with an interesting story to tell, we'd love to hear about it! Just email Jen Roytz ([email protected]) with the horse's Jockey Club name, background story, and a few photos.
Jen Roytz was the marketing and communications director at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky. She also handled the farm's Thoroughbred aftercare efforts. She currently owns a retired Thoroughbred, Point of Impact (by Point Given; a.k.a. Boomer), who retired from racing in late 2011.
Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.
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