It will be fifty years on May 2, 2014 since Northern Dancer became the first Canadian bred and owned horse to win the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 1964. The small bay colt set a new track record and continued on to become the most famous Canadian Bred race horse and sire of all time.
The bay colt by Nearco out of Natalma by Native Dancer started his career as a two year old ridden by Ron Turcotte at Fort Erie Race Track and finished his race record with victories that included the Queen’s Plate, the Preakness, the Bluegrass Stakes, the Florida Derby, the Flamingo Stakes and the Kentucky Derby. His career earnings were $580,806 with fourteen wins in eighteen starts. He won the American Eclipse Award as Three year Old Male Champion of 1964 and the Sovereign Award for Horse of the Year. He held the title of the first and only horse to be voted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1965 until the Canadian show jumper Big Ben joined him thirty-one years later.
Northern Dancer was retired to stud at Windfields farm in Oshawa, Ontario and moved to Windfields’ Maryland farm in 1969 where he had even more of an impact on the racing world as a sire than as a race horse. The diminutive stallion was the most successful 20th century Thoroughbred sire with progeny of 635 foals and 467 winners including 123 stakes horses for total progeny earnings in excess of $26 Million. Northern Dancer has produced multiple champions on four continents including Nijinsky II, The Minstrel, Shareef Dancer, Secreto, Northernette, El Gran Senor, Lomond and Fanfreluche.
Named the 20th century’s best sire of sires, Northern Dancer had at least eleven sons who also became truly outstanding sires: Be My Guest, Danzig, El Gran Senor, Fairy King, Lyphard, Nijinsky, Northern Taste, Nureyev, Sadler's Wells, Storm Bird, and Vice Regent. Northern Dancer and his son Nijinsky II had combined by the early 1980s to sire the winners of almost US$20 million in stakes. He also became the grandsire of 1991 Canadian Triple Crown winner Dance Smartly, who became the richest filly at that time with twelve wins from seventeen career starts including the 1991 Breeders' Cup Distaff and over $2 million. She also proved to be a success as a broodmare.
Northern Dancer yearlings earned the highest average prices consistently at the Keeneland July Selected Yearling Sale in the 1970s and 1980s. At the 1983 Keeneland Sale, a Northern Dancer Windfields colt became the first yearling to sell for $10 million. In the 1980s, the stud fee for Northern Dancer reached US $1 Million.
The great Canadian racehorse and sire died in 1990 at the age of twenty nine years. There are still more Northern Dancer bloodlines today in Breeders Cup winners today than any other lineage.