The 3-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song turned in a dazzling graduation performance at Gulfstream Aug. 6, registering a 6 ½-length front-running victory while racing in hand throughout the seven-furlong maiden special weight event.
Unbridled Hero will concede experience to all but one of his seven rivals Sunday, but trainer Ralph Nicks expects the $325,000 yearling purchase to be up to the task.
“We’ll find out Sunday,” Nicks said. “He’s trained well. He looks great and he’s doing fine.”
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who never had to move a muscle aboard Unbridled Hero in his brilliant maiden-breaker, had a far less carefree experience in the Kentucky-bred colt’s prior outing.
Making his first start for Nicks in his 2015 debut, Unbridled Hero became rank at the gate and dwelt at the start in his return from an eight-month layoff.
“He was real upset when they locked the starting gate doors. Tyler almost fell off leaving there. By the time they got their bearings together they were so far back, he just eased him around there,” Nicks said.
Equipped with blinkers for the first time Aug. 6, Unbridled Hero couldn’t have turned in a more professional or impressive effort.
“He was working good before the first race. I don’t know what set him off in the gate,” Nicks said. “We were sort of guarded in our expectations (for his next start). He seemed to relax better with the blinkers.”
Unbridled Hero, who was no factor in two starts in New York last year, has been installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Three Chopt Road despite his stakes inexperience.
Jacks or Better Farm’s Sing Praises, a two-time winner during the 2014 Florida Sire Stakes series, will seek to return to winning form Sunday after finishing seventh in the Unbridled Division of the FSS for 3-year-olds Aug. 8 while returning from a seven-month layoff. Trainer Stanley Gold is also scheduled to saddle Jacks or Better Farm’s Hear That Tune, a recent optional claiming allowance winner.
Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofant’s Fear the Cowboy is slated to make his first start since Jan. 4 and will be saddled for the first time by Efren Loza Jr. The son of Cowboy Cal finished a late-closing second Jan. 4 behind Itsaknockout, who was subsequently awarded the victory in the Fountain of Youth (G2) after the disqualification of Upstart Feb. 22.
Aces for John, Alcaravan, Chia Ghost and Social Request round out the field.