Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 29 Days to Go!!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 29 Days to Go!!

Unbridled, a beautiful bay colt with a large white blaze, was the last Champion to be bred by the Binger’s Tartan Farms. By Fappiano, the colt would get his massive build from his dam Gana Facil’s sire, the French stallion, Le Fabuleux. The juvenile with a gentle disposition was born with poorly conformed forelegs, his right leg turned out a bit. The Florida-bred colt was purchased from the Tartan-Nerud dispersal at the 1987 Keeneland November Mixed Sale for $70,000 by Frances A. Genter, Florida breeding’s 1980 Woman of the Year due to her contributions to the breed. Her son-in-law and operations manager purchased the colt for her, as well as his dam that was back in foal to Fappiano. The full-brother to Unbridled was a colt named Cahill Road, an even larger colt than Unbridled; Cahill Road was the winner of the Wood Memorial.  In the racing business since 1940, Mrs. Genter also owned and raced another horse named Unbridled, also a bay colt, this one by Unbreakable out of Lark Song, a Blue Larkspur mare. Unbridled was not a first name choice for the 1990 Derby winner, however he received it after the names Neenah and Turko were rejected.  

The gangly youngster was sent to trainer Carl Nafzger for his conditioning after getting his early instruction at the Hartigan’s Ocala Stud, where all of the Genter horses were sent to become accustomed to the track. Nafzger, from Plainview, Texas, became the only trainer that would be inducted into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame, as well as the Professional Bull Riders Hall of Fame. Nafzger would take his time in preparing the large yet awkward colt. Carl became known for his ways of developing horses along with the people who worked for him. He did away with hotwalkers in his barns, instead assigning his grooms to care for just three horses, so that they walked and rubbed their horses, getting to know their quirks and preferences. In this way, Nafzger could train to each horse’s likes and dislikes, enabling him to get better results from each horse. He also sent his charge’s out to the track the day after a work or a race, so that they wouldn’t stiffen up as much, choosing to walk them the second day.  

At two, Unbridled started his racing career at Arlington Park, winning his debut by 10½ lengths. Not known for having his first-time starters cranked, the victory was impressive. Off of the win, the growing colt finished third in two stakes, followed by second place finishes in the next two, one of which was the In Reality Stakes. In his final start at two, Unbridled galloped to a 5 length victory in the What A Pleasure Stakes. Over the winter, the bay continued to improve, responding to Nafzger’s insights. He found that the colt didn’t want to sprint, leading to longer works that focused on the tale end and finishing strong.  

His 3YO campaign would start in the Tropical Park Derby with a 5th place finish. In Unbridled’s next race, the Fountain of Youth, he picked up the riding services of the great Pat Day. The pair was blocked during the race, dealing with traffic issues, still managing to come in third. The newly formed team would take the Florida Derby by five lengths, after the colt powered his way between horses to take the lead. Heading to Keeneland for the Blue Grass Stakes, Unbridled faced an off-track, something he wasn’t fond of, as well as a jockey change. Piloted by Craig Perret, Unbridled put in a late run to finish third, behind the Pat Day ridden Summer Squall and the Lukas trained Land Rush. Acknowledging that his colt was a little short for the Blue Grass, Nafzger was happy with the finish, intending it to be used as a sharpener for the Derby.  

Nafzger and Perret flew under the radar while stabled at Churchill Downs, even though Unbridled, or “Un-B” as he was known around the barn, was thriving and putting in sparkling works. The long-striding colt propelled himself effortlessly over the oval, putting in a half-mile work 8 days after the Blue Grass, followed three days later by a 6-furlong work in 1:13. Six days later, Unbridled worked 5/8 of a mile in 1:01 4/5, with a :23 1/5 final quarter, proving to his connections that he was ready and sitting on a big race.  

The 116th Kentucky Derby would be ranked as #46 in Horse Racing’s Top 100 Moments, as it was remembered for the incredibly heart-warming stretch call that Nafzger gave to Unbridled’s owner, the 92-year-old Frances Genter. Unaware that the television cameras were still on, Nafzger gave the play-by-play on his trainee to Genter as she was unable to see the race. Unbridled was the first Kentucky Derby starter for Genter, in addition to being Nafzger’s and Perret’s first winner.  

Unbridled, going off as the 5th choice, went to post along with 14 other competitors. The crowd of 128,257 made the unbeaten Mr. Frisky the race favorite, followed by Summer Squall. The track was upgraded from muddy to good before the big race. The break was good for the majority of the entrants, with Unbridled actually having the worst of it as Fighting Fantasy impeded him by coming over. Perret allowed the colt to settle towards the back of the pack. As they entered the backstretch Perret guided the colt with a loose rein, allowing him to pick off horses at his own pace. Coming into the far turn, Summer Squall began to make his move on the leaders, going around them as they began backing up. Unbridled in an aggressive move rapidly went to the inside, passing Thirty Six Red and Land Rush with his sights on Summer Squall. As they reached the quarter pole, Unbridled was just a half-length behind, moving effortlessly. With his ground-swallowing strides, Frances Genters’ big bay colt moved to the outside, drawing away from the field, achieving a  ½ length score for the roses. The time was 2:02, the fastest time on a track that wasn’t labeled good, with Unbridled posting the fastest last quarter, :24 2/5, since Secretariat covered it in :23 1/5. He took only 48 strides to cover the ¼ mile, while Summer Squall took 52.  

From the far-turn, Nafzger told his friend, “They’ve taken the lead. Go on Unbridled. He’s taken the lead. He’s taken the lead. He’s on the lead, Mrs. Genter, he’s on the lead. He’s gonna win. He’s gonna win. He’s gonna win. He’s a winner. He’s a winner, Mrs. Genter. There he goes, right there. He’s a winner. He’s a winner. He’s a winner. He’s a winner, Mrs. Genter. He won it. He won it! You won the Kentucky Derby! Oh, Mrs. Genter, I love you.” The colt who had given the long-time horse owner her first Derby win, bestowed a kiss upon her in the Winner’s Circle.  

Unable to win the Triple Crown, as Summer Squall turned the tables in the Preakness, Unbridled finished his 3YO campaign with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, earning the 3YO Male Championship. The bay was reunited with Pat Day for the victory, which made the colt only the second Derby winner to take the Classic. As a 4YO, Unbridled dealt with many issues; however he did show flashes of brilliance. Taking on the sprint champion Housebuster and Craig Perret in the 7-furlong Deputy Minister Stakes, Unbridled with Pat Day in the irons showed his speed in the victory.  

Entered into stud at Gainesway in 1992, Unbridled became Fappiano’s most successful son in the shed. His first crop produced the Derby winner Grindstone, as well as the successful Unbridled’s Song. Being syndicated for $19 million to Claiborne Farm, the stallion remained there for the remainder of his life. From 582 foals, 279 were winners. His offspring were stamped with his good looks and many inherited his kind temperament, along with stamina, scope and his size. Many thought that his offspring were prone to unsoundness, although it was mainly due to the juveniles being pushed too hard too early, instead of giving them time to develop slowly as they grew into their frame. Unbridled would help to develop the most classic-oriented and distance producing branch of the Mr. Prospector line. He was the sire of winners of all legs of the Triple Crown; Grindstone, winner of the 1996 Kentucky Derby, Red Bullet, the Preakness victor, and Empire Maker, the 2003 Belmont Champion. Among his many Champions and winners were Anees, Eddington, Halfbridled, Exogenous, Banshee Breeze, Unshaded, and Unbridled’s Song. Passing away at the age of 14 due to issues that had arisen after a surgery, Unbridled would leave a legacy that is coursing through the veins of many of today’s top horses and stallions. The great grandsire of American Pharoah, Unbridled sired the 2003 Derby runner-up and Belmont winner, Empire Maker, who in turn sired Pharoah’s sire, 2009 Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile. American Pharoah was the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, in addition to becoming racing’s first “Grand Slam” winner with his victory in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic.  

(Artwork ©Rickelle Nelson)

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum