Pedigree Insights: Unique Bella

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Unique Bella | Benoit

By Andrew Caulfield

When Unbridled (Fappiano) entered the outside stall of the starting gate for the 1990 GI Breeders’ Cup Classic, he had a lot to prove. Sure, he had won the GI Florida Derby and GI Kentucky Derby earlier in the year, but he had then suffered defeats in his next four appearances at the Grade I level, in the Preakness S., Belmont S., Secretariat S. and Super Derby.

There was also the added concern that he was having to compete without Lasix, because of New York’s rule against racing on it. Unbridled had finished a dull fourth under the same restriction in the Belmont, and that defeat took on extra significance in view of what Blood-Horse described as a “previously exhibited bleeding problem.”

To Unbridled’s great credit, he surged through from the rear to defeat the unconsidered British raider Ibn Bey (GB) (Mill Reef) in the Classic. However, the hit-and-miss nature of his career continued in 1991, when the 4-year-old won just two of his seven starts, his final effort being a respectable third in Black Tie Affair (Miswaki)’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

With eight wins from 24 starts, Unbridled fell short of superstar status and I was consequently unprepared for the size of the impact he was to make as a stallion, firstly at Gainesway and then at Claiborne. His male line descendants have enjoyed considerable success in the Triple Crown events, with Always Dreaming (Bodemeister) following Grindstone, Mine That Bird (Birdstone) and American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) as this line’s fourth Kentucky Derby winner. There have also been four winners of the Belmont and two of the Preakness.

Unbridled also sired three Breeders’ Cup winners, and one of those winners, Unbridled’s Song, ranks as the most successful stallion in Breeders’ Cup history in terms of prize-money. Also, his total of six winners has been matched only by the great Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer). The Unbridled’s Song sextet landed a Classic (Arrogate), a Juvenile (Midshipman), a Dirt Mile (Liam’s Map) and three editions of the Distaff/Ladies’ Classic (Unbridled Elaine, Unrivaled Belle and Forever Unbridled).

Personally, I would think twice about inbreeding closely to a horse with bleeding problems, but maybe that’s a minor consideration in the land of Lasix. I might also have worried, from a soundness viewpoint, about inbreeding closely to a 16.3-hands son of the 16.3-hands Fappiano (though size can be advantageous in a dirt performer).

However, American breeders have clearly been influenced more by Unbridled’s impact on the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup, and that fine filly Unique Bella, who gained an overdue Grade I success in the La Brea S., is inbred 3×3 to Unbridled.

She is one of four graded stakes winners with 3×3 inbreeding to Unbridled. Three of them are by the 16-hands Tapit (Pulpit), who is out of Unbridled’s stakes-winning daughter Tap Your Heels, while the other is by Birdstone, a smallish son of Grindstone standing 15.3 hands.

All three of the Tapit graded winners with two lines of Unbridled are fillies. They comprise Unique Bella and the

GII winner West Coast Belle, who both have dams by Unbridled’s Song, and the GI Spinaway S. winner Sweet Loretta, who has an Unbridled second dam.

It isn’t easy to assess how much of their talent is attributable to their inbreeding. Unique Bella, after all, is by a three-time champion sire out of a Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner in Unrivaled Belle–a mare who was sold for $3.8 million in 2016. This could simply be a successful example of breeding the best to the best and getting the best. West Coast Belle’s dam Splendid Solution wasn’t nearly as successful on the track as Unrivaled Belle, but she is a winning daughter of the triple

GI winner Dispute, who landed the 1993 Kentucky Oaks. Sweet Loretta, for her part, was a $750,000 purchase as a weanling, so high hopes must always have been held of her.

Tapit’s statistics with Unbridled’s Song mares currently stand at 21 foals, of which 11 have raced and seven have won. The two graded winners equate to 9.5% black-type winners. This percentage is likely to rise but, to give some perspective, I could point out that the large number of foals sired by Tale of the Cat (Storm Cat) from Unbridled’s Song mares have a slightly higher percentage and this pairing does not involve inbreeding to Unbridled. The same applies to Tiznow, who has 13% black-type winners from 15 foals.

It is also worth mentioning, though, that War Front (Danzig), who has 13% black-type winners from 23 foals, creates 4×4 inbreeding to Unbridled’s sire Fappiano. So too does Bernardini (A.P. Indy), who has the graded winners Hemsworth and Shagaf from 29 foals out of Unbridled’s Song mares, for nearly 7%. The overall figure for Unbridled’s Song’s broodmare daughters is 4.7% black-type winners.

To get back to Unique Bella, it is appropriate that she has made her name in California. Her second dam Queenie Belle gained her Grade II victories in the Princess S. over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park and the Lady’s Secret H. over the same distance at Santa Anita. Queenie Belle’s sire Bertrando had been a star in California, where his victories included the GI Norfolk S. and the GI Pacific Classic. And then there’s Don B. (Fleet Nasrullah), sire of Unique Bella’s unraced third dam Lady Argyle. Another Californian, he won eight of his 12 juvenile starts and was later runner-up in the California Derby and Santa Anita Derby.

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