Unbridled Express has honed the power of three in his breeding career, siring three stakes winners in the state of Indiana and hitting the top of the Indiana sire list after three years of being in the top 10 last year. The 16 year old gray son of Unbridled’s Song earned $117,696.80 in Indiana stallion awards in 2019 alone. The remaining top stallions of 2019 include: Sangaree, Skylord, Lantana Mob and Noble’s Promise.
Owned by Bernard Flint’s LTB Inc. and Ron Hillerich’s Hillerich Racing, whom, in turn, were named 2019 Indiana Stallion Owner of the Year, Unbridled Express stands at Swifty Farms in Seymour, Indiana.
The award comes 20 years after the partnership was established. Flint and Hillerich met in 1992 thanks to a claimer, but the breeding aspect of their partnership didn’t come to fruition until Hillerich and his law partner purchased a mare named My Sea Castles (Polish Navy, sire of Sea Hero). Prior to selling the mare, they bred her to the stallion Sky Classic. That result was a filly named Skye Castles. Hillerich, his law partner and Flint then later bred Skye Castles to Unbridled’s Song for a 2004 colt. That colt was named Unbridled Express and ignited an exhilarating ride for Hillerich, Flint and all of their connections.
After a dominating performance in a maiden special weight at Churchill Downs at 2, Hillerich knew they had something special in Unbridled Express. “He had beaten eventual Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense by four lengths,” recalls Hillerich.
His next race was the Grade 1 Hopeful Stake at Saratoga, where Unbridled Express finished third behind Scat Daddy and Circular Quay, sustaining an injury in that race that continued to plague him and end the colt’s career at 3. “He never could make it back to form,” says Hillerich. “However, he’s been a blessing in disguise. Bernie and I both knew what we had in that horse. It’s a shame that he got hurt early, but we just didn’t want to let that talent go to waste.”
So sets the stage for Unbridled Express’s onset into a stallion career. While Flint and Hillerich had been actively breeding in Kentucky, they had heard more about the Indiana Thoroughbred Breed Development Program and it enticed them to look for a home for their young stallion. “We had read about the development program and all of the incentives for Indiana, and we thought with his bloodline and his talent, it was a shame if we didn’t try to see what we could do with him as a stallion,” says Hillerich. “So, we decided to try him in Indiana. Thank goodness we did.”
In the past three years, Unbridled Express has been in the top five for sires standing in Indiana. The past year was his banner year, with three foals winning stakes races in Indiana Grand. He sired 14 winners from 29 starters in 2019 (including six repeat winners), with progeny earnings of $1,089,725. His top progeny include 2019 Indiana Horse of the Year Unbridled Class ($255,695), Mystery Unbridled ($149,582) and Super Jen ($97,108).
The Stallion Owners of the Year are looking forward to more success in the breeding shed and on the track with Unbridled Express’s progeny. “We set out to create a brand in Indiana 10 years ago, and I think we succeeded at that,” says Hillerich. “I think Unbridled Express has proven, without any doubt, that he is a tremendous stallion, and if you look at the statistics, they do the talking.”
Hillerich sings the praises of his partner and friend: “He’s not just a trainer to me, he’s a best friend. He’s just a wonderful man and a great horseman. I can tell you that he knows more about horses than I’ll ever know, and he’s forgotten more about horses than I’ll ever know. But the great thing is, we’re 50/50 on everything and I let Bernie make the call on the horses as to when and where they’re going to run. I may put my 2 cents in, but it’s all deferred to Bernie.
“Sometimes I feel he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He’s truly a great horseman and always, always does the best thing for the horse. And that’s what I like.”
The deadline for registering stallions for participation in the Indiana Thoroughbred Breed Development Program is October 15. For more information, stallion owners can contact Sara Distler: 317-234-2542.
The Stallion of the Year and Stallion Owner of the Year awards are determined solely on earnings in Indiana in 2019. The owner or lessee of a registered Indiana stallion whose registered progeny have won any race at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino earns 10 percent of the gross purse for all stake, allowance and claiming races (except when entered for a claiming price of less than $10,000). All stallion awards are paid directly to the wining owner from the program.
More information can be found on the program’s website (http://in.gov/hrc/tb/).