IS FIRST DEFENCE THE ONE TO CARRY ON SONG LINE AT STUD?

By Nancy Sexton, taken from The Racing Post, 7th August 2013:

It was on the same day leading American stallion Unbridled's Song died aged 20 that Roger Charlton talked in glowing terms about the progeny of his son FIRST DEFENCE.

Speaking after the taking debut success of his Lilyfire in the juvenile fillies' maiden on the opening day of Ascot's King George meeting, Charlton said: "This is the third FIRST DEFENCE I've run this season with the first winning by six lengths at Windsor [Hiking] and the other fourth at Newbury [Amber Isle].  He's also the sire of [Acomb Stakes winner] Dundonnell."

With the might of Juddmonte's broodmare band behind him,FIRST DEFENCE is developing into the kind of stallion supporters of Unbridled's Song have been hoping for.

When one of Unbridled's Song's first-crop stars, Grade 1 winner Songandaprayer, showed early promise at stud, enough to see him switch from Florida to Kentucky, breeders were understandably happy to put their faith in other sons.  Consistently commercial and successful, and therefore popular at at large fees (which hit $200,000 in 2007) throughout his stud career at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky, there seemed no reason to doubt Unbridled's Song's ability to sire successful stallions.

One son, Even the Score, did sire top turf runner, Take the Points, while another first-crop stallion Zensational, is off to a promising start with four winners.  But the fact remains that since Songandaprayer (himself now relegated to Louisiana) there have been a stream of disappointing sons.  Particularly awful was Buddha, a Grade 1 winner who sired 513 foals in his first four seasons in Kentucky and whose first crop sold for up to $550,000; ten years on from his retirement, and his tally of winners of graded stakes winners still stands at zero.

That Unbridled's Song, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Florida Derby, has yet to sire a truly good stallion is a terrible shame considereing his own talent on the track and later at stud.  Only this year he was represented by his 100th stakes winner when Graydar landed the Donn Handicap, and on Saturday sired his 16th Grade 1 winner when Cross Traffic won the Whitney Invitational Handicap at Saratoga.

That Grade 1 group provides a fine illustration of his versatility; FIRST DEFENCE and Zensational were sprinters, others such as Octave and Cross Traffic stretched out to a mile and a quarter, while Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman was an accomplished two-year-old and Thorn Song found his forte on turf.

FIRST DEFENCE's early success at stud, which includes runaway Mother Goose Stakes heroine Close Hatches in addition to Dundonnell, should see him deservedly well-supported in the near future, particularly with an eye towards racing in Europe.  Meanwhile, Unbridled's Song is developing into a fine broodmare sire with his daughters responsible for four Grade 1 winners during the past year in Mrs Onassis, Rolling Fog, The Lumber Guy and Unbridled Command.

Date: 7 August 2013