By Frances J. Karon
At the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale, leading Canadian breeder William D. Graham’s yearling colt by Lion Heart out of stakes-placed Andrea Ruckus (by Arch) was a knockout at the Four Star Sales consignment. With every inspection—and there were many—the big, scopey dark bay or brown colt showed himself with poise, impressing me enough that I tweeted a pre-sale photo identifying him as a “super” horse. On occasion of his Horse of the Year award more than a year later, I wrote a blog post remembering that as a yearling “…this guy’s attitude never soured. He was all class, the type that makes your job selling horses easy, and you’d bring him out for people you knew, whether they had asked to see him or not because he was just that nice.”
Competing for top dollar in Book 2 against sons and daughters of Tapit, Bernardini, War Front, Tiznow, Medaglia d’Oro, Distorted Humor, and other sought-after sires, he held his own as 23rd most expensive yearling of his sale session. And at $290,000, he was the highest priced yearling by Lion Heart sold in 2011.
The obvious ones that look the part will sometimes disappoint when they get to the races, but not this horse. Named Uncaptured and campaigned by John C. Oxley, he won six of seven starts at two, including the Kentucky Jockey Club-G2 and Iroquois-G3 at Churchill Downs and three black-type stakes at Woodbine. On the merits of those accomplishments, he was honored with 2012 Sovereign Awards as Canadian juvenile champ and Horse of the Year, the ninth two-year-old to receive that title and first since Dauphin Fabuleux in 1984 and Deputy Minister in 1981.
At three, Uncaptured won Canada’s classic Prince of Wales Stakes and hit the board in five other stakes races, three of them graded, in eight starts. He made his final career start in March of 2014, running third, a head and a half-length behind last year’s Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.
A graded stakes winner from a mile to a mile and a sixteenth, Uncaptured produced 13 on-the-board efforts in 18 starts, with earnings of $1,065,147 USD. He came to hand early enough to win a 5 1/2-furlong stakes race at two and held form to capture a 1 3/16-mile classic at three. He like Lion Heart is bred on the Tale of the Cat/Hail to Reason cross; he’s 4×5 to Hail to Reason.
Uncaptured joins fellow Lion Heart stallion Kantharos at Michael O’Farrell Jr.’s Ocala Stud in Florida for the 2015 breeding season. Kantharos is the leading freshman sire in the state and ranks as sixth in the nation with undefeated stakes winner Mr. Jordan leading the charge, so Ocala Stud can pin high hopes on Uncaptured, priced at $6,000.
Seattle Slew-line mares have nicked phenomenally well with Lion Heart: an A+++ *Triple Plus* eNick. There are four graded stakes winners on the cross, three out of daughters of Seattle Slew and one through his son Capote, plus two (one graded) with second dams by another Seattle Slew horse, Slew City Slew. Uncaptured’s multiple stakes-winning half-sister Dancing Raven is by Tomahawk, a son of Seattle Slew, so there appears to be an affinity on both sides of his family. (Dancing Raven is inbred 4×4 to Boldnesian; Uncaptured progeny with strains of Seattle Slew would be linebred to him.)
Other lines proven with Lion Heart are Deputy Minister (three stakes winners; A+) and Halo (two stakes winners; A).
Lion Heart was sold and exported from Ashford Stud in Kentucky to the Jockey Club of Turkey prior to the 2010 breeding season. Uncaptured is from his last crop conceived in the U.S., among a standout group yielding five graded stakes winners. Most of Lion Heart’s 15 graded winners—eleven of them, in fact—won their big races after the deal to sell the sire had been inked, but American breeders can still access his bloodline through sons such as Uncaptured and Kantharos at Ocala Stud.
[Editor’s note: Frances wears many hats, including Four Star’s during sales season; she’s also the editor and a writer for North American Trainer magazine, a pedigree authority, and an appraiser.]