A new dimension is being added to the Ashford Stud stallion team with the arrival of Dunkirk, a first-rate representative of the highly successful Unbridled male line.
Dunkirk first hit the headlines when he became the highest-priced yearling colt of 2007, his price of $3.7 millionbeing the best of the year by no less than $800,000.
“I liked this fellow very much and I think the cross might be the right key for him to stay,” said purchaser Demi O’Byrne. “He was a great mover.”
The colt’s price reflected his superb looks and illustrious parentage. By Unbridled’s Song, a winner of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and G1 Florida Derby, he is out of Secret Status, an A.P. Indy mare who was victorious in the G1 Kentucky Oaks, by 7 lengths, and G1 Mother Goose Stakes. Midshipman, another Unbridled’s Song colt out of a grand-daughter of Seattle Slew, became the champion juvenile male of 2008.
It didn’t take long for Dunkirk to impress his trainer, Todd Pletcher, who reported that the son of Unbridled’s Song “got my attention literally his first breeze at Palm Meadows. He showed a tremendous amount of talent, not the time, but the manner and fashion in which he was breezing.”
Dunkirk attained TDN Rising Star status with a dominant display on his debut over seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park in January 2009.
“Dunkirk didn’t get off to the best of starts, but rushed up into contention on the backstretch, circled the field on the turn, hit the front in mid-stretch and pulled away to score by 5 3/4 lengths.”
It was more of the same when Dunkirk reappeared at Gulfstream in February, this time in a nine-furlong allowance.
The TDN reported. “he powered to the front in the stretch and rolled home an eye-catching 4 3/4-length winner over Warrior’s Reward. ‘I got pushed wide on the first turn, but when I asked him, he was super,’ said winning jockey Garrett Gomez. ‘That’s the way a special horse responds.’”
It was now time for Dunkirk to be tested against the leaders of his generation, and he passed the test with flying colors in finishing second to Quality Road in the G1 Florida Derby. Steve Haskin reporting on bloodhorse.com, had this to say:
“Dunkirk’s performance under the circumstances was sensational, as he had everything against him, dropping back to sixth, eight lengths off the lead… But regardless of whether he won or not, the move he made on the far turn, and his overall performance, stamped him as something special.”
The G1 Belmont Stakes provided another demonstration of Dunkirk’s huge potential. Fighting back gamely after making the running for more than a mile, he finished second to Summer Bird, with G1 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird back in third, and his performance looked all the more admirable when he was found to have suffered a condylar fracture to his left hind cannon bone during the race.
“We all knew he was a brilliant and talented colt,” Steve Haskin wrote of Dunkirk’s Belmont effort, “but he proved in that final quarter mile that he possessed something more defining than brilliance and talent and indeed is something special.”
There were hopes that Dunkirk would make a full recovery after surgery, but it was finally decided that it was wiser to retire him to Ashford.
“It’s a pity Dunkirk had to retire, as we all expected he would have a huge year on the track in 2010,” said Ashford manager Dermot Ryan. “On the other hand it’s great to be able to stand a horse like him, with his combination of great ability, fantastic looks and a top-notch pedigree. He’s by Unbridled’s Song, who has been so consistent that his fee has stood at $100,000 or more for eight consecutive years. Also, his pedigree contains the same major components – Unbridled and A.P. Indy – as Tapit who has done so well that his fee has quadrupled to $50,000 in the space of three years. Empire Maker, another member of the Unbridled male line, stands for $50,000 after siring four G1 winners in his first two crops, so we think Dunkirk is great value at $10,000.”
With so many factors in his favor, who is to say that Dunkirk won’t follow in the footsteps of such notable Keeneland yearling sale toppers as Nureyev, Royal Academy or A.P. Indy?