Northern Dancer, Sire of the Century

There are few, if any, thoroughbreds who can match the combined accomplishments of the great Northern Dancer, both on the track and at the stud farm. The respected Thoroughbred Times considers Northern Dancer to be the 20th century’s best sire of sires. Northern Dancer’s influence has extended as far as Japan, where one of his sons named Northern Taste was the leading sire in the country for a decade. Northern Dancer ranks 43 out of 100 in the Blood-Horse rankings of the top U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century.

Let’s step back for a moment and examine the origins of this horseracing legend. Northern Dancer, a beautiful bay stallion, was foaled on May 27, 1961 to the stallion Nearctic and the mare Natalma. Both parents boasted distinguished pedigrees: Nearctic won the Sovereign Award for Horse of the Year in 1958 while Natalma’s sire was the highly regarded thoroughbred Native Dancer. So it was that the birth of Northern Dancer was greeted with much joy by his owner, E.P. Taylor of Canada’s Windfields Farm.

Taylor’s hopes were shortly to be realized, perhaps beyond his great expectations: after winning several races as a two-year-old including the Coronation Futurity Stakes, Northern Dancer tore up the track in 1964, winning the Flamingo Stakes, the Florida Derby, the Blue Grass Stakes, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and finally Canada’s most prominent race, the Queen’s Plate. Over his 2-year racing career encompassing 18 major races, Northern Dancer won 14, placed in 2 and showed in 2. Incredibly, he never finished worse than third!

After closing out his stellar racing career, Northern Dancer enjoyed a busy retirement at stud, siring amazing 146 stakes winners and fathering a legendary bloodline that includes champions such as Nijinsky II, Secreto, Sadler’s Wells and Fanfreluche. His duties continued up until 1986 – a stretch of more than 20 years – when this already legendary sire of racing champions was allowed to relax all responsibilities. Northern Dancer died at peace in 1990 and is memorialized today with a life-size bronze statue that stands proudly at Canada’s Woodbine Racetrack.