It’s Unbridled, Not Unbeaten : Horse racing: Colt shows his improvement since Blue Grass with 3 1/2-length victory over Summer Squall. Mister Frisky is eighth, 19 1/4 lengths back.
Unbridled, the unappreciated, won the 116th running of the Kentucky Derby Saturday, soundly beating Summer Squall and Mister Frisky, two more glamorous horses that sniffed the lilies instead of the roses at Churchill Downs.
Mister Frisky, undefeated in 16 races, which made him the most successful Derby starter ever, was sent off as the 19-10 favorite. Then he became the 11th consecutive public choice to fail here. The Santa Anita Derby winner had the lead briefly on the far turn before he faltered, finishing eighth in the 15-horse field, 19 1/4 lengths behind Unbridled.
Summer Squall, who had won seven of eight races, was the 2-1 second choice of the crowd of 128,257, and while giving a better account of himself than Mister Frisky, he was no match for Unbridled when the telltale running began. Summer Squall finished second, 3 1/2 lengths back and added to jockey Pat Day’s legacy in the Derby.
Day, who has won more races than anybody in the long history of Churchill Downs, is winless in eight tries in the Derby. The frustration was compounded Saturday, because Summer Squall gave Day an unprecedented three consecutive second-place finishes, and Unbridled is a horse that Day rode as recently as mid-March, when they won the Florida Derby.
Day also won a race at Gulfstream Park with Summer Squall that day, and said after the Florida Derby that he was leaning toward Unbridled as his Kentucky Derby horse. But after Summer Squall won the Jim Beam at Turfway Park two weeks later, Day dropped his option on Unbridled, sending Saturday’s winner back to Craig Perret.
In the Blue Grass on a muddy track at Keeneland three weeks ago, Day rode Summer Squall to another victory, with Unbridled and Perret finishing third, 3 3/4 lengths back.
Perret, 39, won on his fourth Derby mount, coming close with third-place Awe Inspiring last year and with runner-up Bet Twice in 1987. Perret thought that the Blue Grass was a useful race for Unbridled, and that it improved him about four lengths--or the distance needed to perhaps beat Summer Squall.
“I was wrong,” Perret said Saturday. “After I worked him here, I felt that he had moved up about eighth lengths. Our goal was not to win the Blue Grass, our goal was to win the Derby.”
Summer Squall finished six lengths ahead of Pleasant Tap, the 40-1 shot. It was another three lengths back to Video Ranger, the horse from the $40,000 claiming ranks who was 1 1/4 lengths better than Silver Ending, the Arkansas Derby winner.
Reaching the wire, in order, after the first five were Killer Diller, Land Rush, Mister Frisky, Thirty Six Red, Power Lunch, Real Cash, Dr. Bobby A., Pendleton Ridge, Burnt Hills and Fighting Fantasy. Country Day was scratched from the Derby on Friday after fracturing a bone in his right foreleg.
Unbridled, the fifth betting choice, paid $23.60, $7.80 and $5.80. The other mutuels were $3.80 and $3.80 on Summer Squall and $12 for Pleasant Tap. Unbridled earned $581,000 of the $756,000 purse, running 1 1/4 miles in a creditable time of 2:02 on a drying-out track that was labeled as good.
Unbridled, a big bay son of Fappiano and Gana Facil, is a Florida-bred who was bought by his owner, Frances Genter, for $70,000 at Tartan Farms’ dispersal auction in 1987. Genter, 92, is a Minneapolis resident who has been in racing for 53 years. Before Saturday, she said that her biggest racing thrill was winning the 1951 Santa Anita Derby with Rough’n Tumble, a horse that cost $5,000.
Carl Nafzger, 48, a former rodeo bull rider who started training quarter horses in New Mexico in 1968 before moving to thoroughbreds a few years later, gave Perret few prerace instructions.
“I only told Craig one thing,” Nafzger said. “I wanted him to warm up the horse, to jog him. I wanted him to trot the horse a whole bunch.”
The jockey didn’t have much to say to Nafzger, either. “If we just get that much run, I know we’ll win this race.”
What Perret meant was shaking Unbridled loose in a large field. As it turned out, the colt’s only problem was a squeeze between Fighting Fantasy and Pleasant Tap at the start.
“After three jumps, we were fine,” Perret said.
Fighting Fantasy, who went off at 111-1, broke to the right, pushing Unbridled into Pleasant Tap. Fighting Fantasy made the lead in the run past the stands the first time, but dropped out of the race quickly.
Real Cash held the lead going down the backstretch, with Mister Frisky and his jockey, Gary Stevens, running on his right flank. Thirty Six Red and Burnt Hills also were in contention then, with Summer Squall heading up the second tier of horses, about five lengths behind Real Cash. Unbridled was in sixth place, about eight lengths away from the front.
On the far turn, Mister Frisky moved past Real Cash, but could hold the lead for only about 10 jumps. Summer Squall and Unbridled were rolling even faster.
“I wasn’t sure I could beat Pat at the five-sixteenths pole, but I knew then that it was just me and him,” Perret said.
Summer Squall moved past Mister Frisky, and Unbridled was accelerating right behind him. With a half-mile to go, Unbridled was following Land Rush, and Silver Ending was coming up on the outside. Perret was able to send Unbridled through the hole that those horses might have closed.
“That was the key,” Perret said. “The hole was there at the right time.”
Unbridled, on the outside, pulled away from Summer Squall just inside the eighth pole, completing the trip and the victory with only a couple of right-handed whacks from Perret’s whip.
“At the quarter pole, I saw Pat whipping his horse, and I said to myself, “Pat, you’re in trouble,’ ” Perret said. “From the middle of the backstretch, I knew we were in good shape. I had a golden trip.
“Today was just my day at Churchill Downs. This horse gave me a winning race at the eighth pole. I saw the progress he was making (since the Blue Grass). I knew he was coming to the race in the right way.”
Day didn’t get his usual strong finish from Summer Squall.
“I looked over my shoulder just about the five-sixteenths pole and I saw Unbridled coming,” Day said. “When I looked back at my horse, he had his ears straight up. I mean, we were on the lead at that point just turning into the stretch, and he threw his ears up and just lost total concentration.
“When Unbridled came by me, my horse got back into it, but it wasn’t the burst that I anticipated that he was capable of. He came on down there with a half-hearted run. I think that he was capable of a better finish than that.
“It wasn’t like he was a tired horse, but he wasn’t exerting 100% of his effort at that point. My hat’s off to the winner, but I think my colt could have made it a bit more of a horse race if he had just maintained his attention span. He just kind of lost his concentration momentarily at the head of the stretch and just never seemed to regain it.”
Perret rode Unbridled for the first time for a fifth-place finish in the Tropical Park Derby at Calder in January. Jose Velez had been riding Unbridled as a 2-year-old, but he broke his hip in a spill.
In the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on March 3, Day rode Unbridled for the first time, because Perret was committed to Rhythm, the champion 2-year-old colt. Unbridled finished third and Rhythm, who eventually dropped out of the Kentucky Derby picture after throat surgery, was 10th.
Two weeks later, Unbridled’s win in the Florida Derby was demeaned because of a slow time and the fact that it was only the third victory in nine starts for the colt. The Blue Grass, his next race, did nothing to swell Unbridled’s reputation, except in the eyes of Nafzger and Perret.
“They built a wall around Summer Squall and Mister Frisky (for the Kentucky Derby),” Perret said. “I guess if you win all 16 of your races, you’re entitled to that, but I never felt this was a two-horse race. Quite a few horses in this race had a license to win.”
The overriding sentimental choice was Mister Frisky and trainer Laz Barrera, who had won the Derby with Bold Forbes in 1976 and the Triple Crown with Affirmed in 1978, before two heart surgeries and a dismissed California accusation that he had run a horse on cocaine in 1988.
Barrera schooled Mister Frisky so much at Churchill Downs--in the paddock and in the starting gate--that the colt might have been Phi Beta Kappa. Mister Frisky, heated up and unruly before the Santa Anita Derby, was a model horse in the paddock on Saturday.
“I hate to blame the track, but the horse didn’t handle it,” Stevens said. “When we made the lead, I thought the race was ours. But when Summer Squall and Unbridled started coming, my horse bobbled for three or four strides. He was uncomfortable. He had done the same thing during a workout here, and I had said something about it.
“After that, I asked him for his best, and it wasn’t there. The last eighth of a mile, I was more concerned about the well-being of the horse. I just took care of him the rest of the way.”
Barrera said that Mister Frisky suffered a cut on his right front ankle, but it isn’t serious. Stevens feels that Mister Frisky deserves another chance.
“He pulled up all right, and if he’s all right after this, I’d like to see him run in the Preakness,” Stevens said.
The Preakness, the second leg in the Triple Crown, will be run at Pimlico on May 19. Unbridled will not be unappreciated when he runs in that one.
* ADDITIONAL COVERAGE: C3
RECENT: WINNERS Year: Horse 1990: Unbridled 1989: Sunday: Silence 1988: Winning: Colors 1987: Alysheba 1986: Ferdinand 1985: Spend: a: Buck 1984: Swale 1983: Sunny’s: Halo 1982: Gato: del: Sol 1981: Pleasant: Colony 1980: Genuine: Risk 1979: Spectacular: Bid 1978: Affirmed 1977: Seattle: Slew 1976: Bold: Forbes 1975: Foolish: Pleasure 1974: Cannonade 1973: Secretariat DERBY WINNERS Year: Horse 1990: Unbridled 1989: Sunday Silence 1988: Winning Colors 1987: Alysheba 1986: Ferdinand 1985: Spend a Buck 1984: Swale 1983: Sunny’s Halo 1982: Gato del Sol 1981: Pleasant Colony 1980: Genuine Risk 1979: Spectacular Bid 1978: Affirmed 1977: Seattle Slew 1976: Bold Forbes 1975: Foolish Pleasure 1974: Cannonade 1973: Secretariat 1972: Riva Ridge 1971: Canonero II 1970: Dust Commander 1969: Majestic Prince 1968: Forward Pass 1967: Proud Clarion 1966: Kauai King 1965: Lucky Debonair 1964: Northern Dancer 1963: Chateaugay 1962: Decidedly 1961: Carry Back 1960: Venetian Way 1959: Tomy Lee 1958: Tim Tam 1957: Iron Liege 1956: Needles 1955: Swaps 1954: Determine 1953: Dark Star 1952: Hill Gail 1951: Count Turf 1950: Middleground 1949: Ponder 1948: Citation 1947: Jet Pilot 1946: Assault 1945: Hoop, Jr. 1944: Pensive 1943: Count Fleet 1942: Shut Out 1941: Whirlaway 1940: Gallahadion 1939: Johnstown 1938: Lawrin 1937: War Admiral 1936: Bold Venture 1935: Omaha 1934: Cavalcade 1933: Brokers Tip 1932: Burgoo King 1931: Twenty Grand 1930: Gallant Fox 1929: Clyde Van Dusen 1928: Reigh Count 1927: Whiskery 1926: Bubbling Over 1925: Flying Ebony 1924: Black Gold 1923: Zev 1922: Morvich 1921: Behave Yourself 1920: Paul Jones 1919: Sir Barton 1918: Exterminator 1917: Omar Khayyam 1916: George Smith 1915: Regret 1914: Old Rosebud 1913: Donerail 1912: Worth 1911: Meridan 1910: Donau 1909: Wintergreen 1908: Stone Street 1907: Pink Star 1906: Sir Huon 1905: Agile 1904: Elwood 1903: Judge Himes 1902: Alan-a-Dale 1901: His Eminence 1900: Lieut. Gibson 1899: Manuel 1898: Plaudit 1897: Typhoon II 1896: Ben Brush 1895: Halma 1894: Chant 1893: Lookout 1892: Azra 1891: Kingman 1890: Riley 1889: Spokane 1888: MacBeth II 1887: Montrose 1886: Ben Ali 1885: Joe Cotton 1884: Buchanan 1883: Leonatus 1882: Apollo 1881: Hindoo 1880: Fonso 1879: Lord Murphy 1878: Day Star 1877: Baden Baden 1876: Vagrant 1875: Aristides