Not Quite Time for a Swan Song

View the final rankings of North American sires of 2017 by earnings and get out your hankies and dab your eyes because an era has ended just as another one might be getting under way. Unbridled’s Song leads that list, primarily on the exploits of his son Arrogate, who has now retired at precisely the time that his sire might finally, posthumously, become a consistent sire of consistent sires. With more than two dozen prominent stakes-winning sons retired to stud in this century, Unbridled’s Song captured the imagination—and bucks—of stallion managers and breeders who saw the big, long, powerful son of Unbridled out of the Caro mare Trolley Song as a second coming of sorts, one that would establish a line of speed that would be flexible enough to produce classic winners. The speed succeeded, led by Old Fashioned, Rockport Harbor, and Songandaprayer. But none of them, nor any of the other speed-oriented sons, rose to the occasion of flexibility. Others just failed to generate consistency at any level, with many of them such as Rockport Harbor (Pennsylvania) and Songandaprayer (Louisiana) sent from Kentucky to regional programs. Others went overseas, to Korea (Old Fashioned, Eurosilver, Emcee), Argentina (Zensational), and Japan (grade 1-placed Dunkirk). Of the established sons still in Kentucky, Midshipman and Even the Score are still attracting good books while Graydar has shown he may do well with his first crop. And since he moved to New York, Mission Impazible could make some noise. Ironically, as he got older, Unbridled’s Song seemed to get major two-turn runners who had a chance of carrying on his legacy and perhaps establishing their own branches. Some of this could be attributed to the fact that since he was very big, it would not necessarily be best to send him smaller mares. “Like-to-like,” as they used to say in the game, might have had a hand along with pedigree compatibility. Indeed, his legacy now seems to rest on five of those individuals, including, of course, Arrogate. But four others seem to be raising just as many eyebrows as to potential: Bird Song, Cross Traffic, Will Take Charge, and Liam's Map. Bird Song won two graded stakes and was produced by champion filly Bird Town (by Cape Town), whose half brother Birdstone won the Champagne, Belmont, and Travers stakes (all grade 1) and sired Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Mine That Bird, as well as champion Summer Bird, who emulated his sire’s Belmont and Travers successes. Bird Song enters stud at Gainesway in 2018 at a $5,000 fee. Cross Traffic and Will Take Charge will send out their first 2-year-olds in 2018. Out of grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady (by Dehere), and therefore a half brother to grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy (by A.P. Indy), Will Take Charge raced three years, during which he won five graded stakes, including the Travers, which cinched him the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male. His 55 yearlings averaged $130,000 in 2017, so he will be one to watch all year long. Out of the brilliant multiple grade 1 winner Stop Traffic (by Cure the Blues), Cross Traffic, raced only at 4 when he revved up from his conditions to place second in both the Westchester Stakes (G3) and Metropolitan Handicap (G1) before taking the Whitney Invitational Handicap (G1). His yearlings sold well, considering his stud fee ($7,500), and he will be one to watch next year. Liam’s Map, who got really good at 4 to win the Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), has a ton of 2018 yearlings. Based on the average of his weanlings to date ($142,000), there are going to be fireworks on the yearling boards for this son of Miss Macy Sue (by Trippi), whose son Not This Time (by Giant’s Causeway) was a grade 3 winner in 2016. Miss Macy Sue’s fourth dam is the immortal Ta Wee. So, don’t get the impression it’s all said and done for Unbridled’s Song before Arrogate covers his first mare. Borrowing a cliché from another sport uttered by the sage Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”