Horseracing StoriesCarreras de Caballos

Northern Dancer

Northern Dancer

Foaled in 1961, by Nearctic out of Natalma, Harsh Thakor

A great racehorse and a phenomenal sire. He was a very talented performer on the track but at stud he was a superstar. The Dancer was simply an emperor who created racing's greatest dynasty.

He was the son of Nearctic out of Natalma, being bred by E.P.Taylor at his stud in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. He was a bully as a yearling like his grandfather.He failed to reach a reserve of Usd 25,000 at Mr.Taylor's 1962 yearling sale, and was returned to Taylor’s Farm.

In his early months of schooling, Northern Dancer would pull and break through the string, bang the wall and do everything to unseat his rider. Horatio Luro schooled the colt after being broken by Peter Richards.

In his 2-year-old career, his racing debut was delayed by cracked heels and until August 1963 he did not enter his first race. He won his first start at Fort Erie by almost 7 lengths under apprentice rider Ron Turcotte. After it, he won five race including the Coronation Futurity, and the Carleton Stakes in Canada. In November, he flew South to conquer Bupers, the Futurity winner, by 8 lengths over a mile at Aqueduct and and then beating Lord Date by two lengths in the Remsen Stakes. He beat the best in America like a true racing machine.

After the race, it was discovered that there was a hairline quarter crack on the front of his near fore hoof. A Californian blacksmith’s services were deployed who had developed a method for treating quarter cracks with heat, fusing the hoof wall. It proved successful. He won 7 of his 9 races in this season.

In his 3-year-old career, Northern Dancer lost his first race of the season at Florida to Chieftain. The jockey had overused the whip and was sacked. Then, he won six consecutive races. In the Flamingo Stakes, Northern Dancer pulled away to win by 2 lengths in a good timing of 1:47.8. He went on to win the Florida Derby in a mediocre timing of 1:50.8. Bill Shoemaker partnered the colt to victory in these races.

In the Kentucky Derby, Bill Shoemaker chose Hill Rise in preference to Northern Dancer, and another jockey had to be found. Bill Hartack took over the job, and immediately won the Blue Grass Stakes on Northern Dancer.Then, in the Derby, Hill Rise with the ‘Shoe’ astride won the 7 furlong Forerunner Purse at Keeneland and the mile Derby trial at Churchill Downs, thus emerging the Derby favourite. Northern Dancer prevailed by a neck from Hill Rise in the Kentucky Derby, in a record time of 2 mins.

Northern Dancer in the Woodbine racetrack, photo Charlie Martell

The small son of Nearctic had become the first horse to win the Derby before completing his 3rd birthday. In the Preakness, he again triumphed defeating Hill Rise by 2 and a half-lengths. Before the straight, Hill Rise came alongside him but on entering the straight the Dancer cruised like a missile winning the race with Hill Rise loosing 2nd place to the Scoundrel at the winning post. However in the Belmont Stakes, he failed to stay and finished 3rd behind Quadrangle and Roman Brother.

The Dancer returned to Canada for the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine for trainer Horatio Luro where he triumphed by 7 and half-lengths. He received the ovation of a true hero.Sadly, shortly afterwards in August, he injured a tendon in his morning gallop and was retired to stud. The greatest horse in the history of Canadian racing would no more set foot on the Turf.

The colt was syndicated for Usd 2,400,000 to Winfield Farm in Chesapeake City, Maryland. In his first crop, foaled in 1966, Northern Dancer sired ten stakes winners from 21 foals, a 47.6% strike rate. Had he maintained that percentage throughout his 22 subsequent crops of foals.

He sired Nijinsky, one of the greatest racehorses of the 20th Century, The Minstrel (1977 Epsom Derby, Irish Derby and King George winner), Lyphard (Champion Miler in 1973), Nureyev (Champion French Miler in 1980), El Gran Senor (1984 Horse of the Year), Secreto (1984 Epsom Derby winner) and Sadlers Wells (Champion Sire on a record 10 occasions in Britain).

His Nijinsky line produced champions like Shahrastani (1986 Epsom Derby), Golden Fleece (1982 Epsom Derby), Ferdinand (1986 Kentucky Derby), Shahdeed (1985 2,000 Guineas and Champion Miler), Kings Lake (1981 Irish 2,000 Guineas and Champion Miler), Ile De Bourbon (1978 King George), Lammtarra (1995 Epsom Derby, King George and Arc), Generous...

Northern Dancer winning the 1964 Kentucky Derby, photo from Thoroughbredmemories.com

Through his Nureyev line champions like Miesque (two Breeders Cup Mile’s and French 1000 Guineas), Theatrical (Oaks and Breeders Cup) and Peintre Celebre (1997 French Derby, Arc and Horse of the Year) were produced.Through his Lyphard line champions like Three Troikas (1979 French 1,000 Guineas and Arc), Manila (1986 Breeders Cup) and Dancing Brave (1986 2,000 Guineas, Eclipse, King George, Arc and Horse of the Year) were produced. He was twice champion sire in England as well as America.

In 1990, at the age of 29 the great stallion left for his heavenly abode. No sire made such an impact in the last Century. The empire he created was like a dynasty of an emperor like Alexander or Caesar and may never be emulated in the history of racing.


Northern Dancer
Year Age Starts 1st 2nd 3rd Earned Usd
1963 2 9 7 2 0 134,073
1964 3 9 7 0 2 490,102
Totals 18 14 2 2 580,737


Northern Dancer's Pedigree

Northern Dancer
Nearctic Nearco Pharos
Lady Angela Hyperion
Sister Sarah
Natalma Native Dancer Polynesian
Almahmoud Mahmoud