With a powerful victory in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Saturday at Gulfsteam Park, the once-beaten Graydar shoved himself into a spot of prominence among the older horses on the East Coast. The big gray's success also made him the 100th stakes winner for his famous sire, Unbridled's Song (by Unbridled).
Winning for the third time in four starts, Graydar defeated Bourbon Courage (Lion Heart) by three lengths, with Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy) five lengths farther back and a neck in front of the evergreen Flat Out (Flatter).
Bred in Kentucky by W.S. Farish, Graydar is out of the Dehere mare Sweetest Smile, also the dam of the graded stakes-placed Union Course (Dixie Union) and Star of David (Bernstein). An $80,000 yearling at the 1999 Keeneland September yearling sale, Sweetest Smile sold for $200,000 to Farish as an in-foal broodmare at the 2006 Keeneland January sale after her first racer of note, Union Course, had finished second in the G3 Flash and third in the G2 Saratoga Special in 2005.
The price for Sweetest Smile was a good one, but it proved a bargain, as three of the mare's next four foals each sold for more than their dam. At the time of her sale, the mare was carrying Star of David, who was a $220,000 Keeneland September yearling. The mare's full sister to Union Course, Alys, was a $275,000 September yearling.
When Graydar went through the ring as a yearling in September 2010, however, he was an RNA at $85,000, and instead of casting him to the winds, the colt was sent to Bill Harrigan, who prepared the progressive gray for the sales of 2-year-olds in training.
At the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Florida auction of juveniles at Palm Meadows, Harrigan had tuned Graydar to a fine pitch, and the colt responded with a quick furlong in :10 2/5 and a BreezeFig that put him among the elite colts at the sale.
Jay Kilgore, who helped to develop BreezeFigs for DataTrack International, recalled the gray and said that “he had one of the most impressive strides of the day, moving out low and smooth, and covering the ground with a stride of nearly 26 feet at the point we caught him during the breeze. It was very impressive.”
With that effort behind him, Graydar sold at Palm Meadows for $260,000 to the Twin Creeks Racing Stables of Randy Gullat and Steve Davison.
Gullat recalled that he was “attracted to Graydar by his big stride and how well he moved. when we went back to the barns to look at him, Bill Harrigan raved about how good this horse was, and he was right.
“After we bought him, we took Graydar to train at WinStar, and I thought he was the best 2-year-old I'd seen, thought we'd win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. But when we transferred him to Saratoga, he went through a growth phase and just fell apart. He was really big and growthy; so we brought him back and gave him time to grow up.”
Then Graydar looked like a coming thing a couple of times, as he grew into his huge 17-hand frame. The colt managed two victories and a second from three starts at 3, and he also coped with a curb and a splint, “nothing major or surgical,” Gullat said, “but we thought it was worthwhile to give him time to become as good as we thought he could be, and fortunately, our patience – and Todd Pletcher's outstanding training – paid off.”
In the Donn, Graydar became his sire's 15th G1 winner. That high class, allied with unexpected speed from a tribe of typically big horses, is the hallmark of Unbridled's Song. His top offspring include three Breeders' Cup winners: two of the BC Distaff (Unrivaled Belle in 2010 and Unbridled Elaine in 2001) and the 2008 BC Juvenile winner, Midshipman, who also won the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old colt. From 14 crops to race, Unbridled's Song has sired runners with nearly $86 million in total earnings to date.
The class in his offspring comes naturally, as Unbridled's Song was an exceptionally talented athlete. At the Barretts sale of juveniles in training, he almost sold for $1.2 million after a blazing workout, but a nearly imperceptible flake in an ankle kept Unbridled's Song in the possession of Ernie Paragallo, for whom the colt won two of three starts that year, including the BC Juvenile in a dramatic finish over Hennessy.
The next season, Unbridled's Song showed so much ability that learned Triple Crown watchers were hocking their furniture to bet on him for the coming classics. The colt won the Florida Derby, then the Wood Memorial, despite foot problems that required him to wear a peculiar-looking egg bar shoe.
In the Kentucky Derby, the big gray raced prominently, but classic glory went to the relatively unheralded Grindstone, another son of Unbridled.
Speed and class, however, have made Unbridled's Song the most consistent and effective son of his sire, Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled (Fappiano). Out of the Caro mare Trolley Song, Unbridled's Song stands at Taylor Made Stallions in Nicholasville, Ky., for a fee of $60,000 live foal, payable when the foal stands and nurses.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is a private consultant to breeders on pedigrees, matings, and conformation. He is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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