Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chapter 25

Danzig and Nureyev (What a one-two punch)

The 1977 crop of Northern Dancer foals have probably done more to carry on the Dancer’s line than any other crop. The 1977 crop featured two of the best sires Northern Dancer would produce in Danzig and Nuryev.

Danzig was undefeated as a runner but he only raced three times before a chronic knee injury ended his racing career. Danzig was bred in Pennsylvania by William S. Farish, of Marshall Jenney’s Derry Meeting Farm before being sold at the Saratoga Yearling Sales to Henryk de Kwiatkowski for $310,000. Henryk (de Kwiatkowski) was a Polish immigrant who made his fortune buying and selling used airplanes. Woody Stephens would train Danzig for his brief racing career and be instrumental in convincing Kwiatkowski that this horse was something special and worth a shot as a stallion despite his resume missing any big stakes wins. Woody was right and by 1985 Danzig’s stud fees had risen to $250,000.

Danzig was euthanized on Jan 3,2006 at Claiborne Farm near Paris Kentucky where he was suffering from the infirmities of old age. He was 29 years old. Danzig is buried at Claiborne where he stood for his entire career as a stallion. Danzig sired 23 crops of more than 1,000 foals and is second all time to Dancer’s other son Nureyev in percentage of stakes winners. Danzig stands third in number of stakes winners behind his own son Danehill (1986) who died before his sire after a fluke paddock accident in 2003 and another Northern Dancer son Sadler’s Wells. Danzig led the American Sires List three years in a row from 1991-1993, it was only the third time in the past 100 years a horse had led the sires list three years in a row. He also led the Sires list in the United Arab Emirates and Spain. Danzig produced 4 Breeders Cup winners including Canada’s 1991 champion and Triple Crown winner Dance Smartly. He was also the grandsire of another Canadian Triple Crown winner in Wando through his Sovereign Award winning son Langfuhr. Danzig’s runners won over $100 million including a Preakness Stakes (Pine Bluff) and Belmont (Danzig Connection). A grandson, Sea Hero out of another son Polish Navy won the 1993 Kentucky Derby.

Danzig was also a leading broodmare sire and amongst his daughters was Angel Fever, dam of Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

Danzig’s last crop of foals (approximately 30), are just two year olds so his immediate legacy to the sport is still a work in progress but his grandchildren are already making as much noise as their grandfather and great grandfather in the breeding shed.

The accomplishments of Danzig’s sons and daughters could fill another book, as could the accomplishments of his grandchildren through Danehill alone. Danehill was the first sire to top 300 stakes winners despite dying in the prime of his breeding life at the age of 17. Both Northern Dancer and Danzig produced crops of foals past the age of 25 (to put Danehill’s record in perspective).

Danehill was shuttled between Australia and Ireland for Coolmore. He led the Australian Sires List for 11 years since 1993/1994 and when he finally was unseated it was by one of his sons, Redoute’s Choice in 2005/2006 who appears to be the heir apparent. Danehill finally ended Sadler’s Wells streak at 14 claiming Britain’s Leading Sire status in 2005. Danehill finished 5th on the Australian leading general sires list in 2005/2006 where he was joined by 4 of his sons who finished in the top 8. In addition to the leader Redoute’s Choice (1996), there was Desert King (1994) in 4th, Flying Spur (1992) in 6th, Commands (1996) in 7th and Lion Hunter (1992) in 8th.

I have tried to describe the incredible Makybe Diva, three-time Melbourne Cup winner who was a granddaughter of Danehill through his son Desert King. While she was about to capture the hearts of a Nation (Australia), another horse, a 7-year old gelding son of Danehill, Fairy King Prawn was being inducted into Hong Kong’s Racing Hall of Fame. He was the “peoples horse” as he paraded in front of his thousands of fans at Sha Tin Racecourse in February 2003. He gave the people of Hong Kong a great deal of excitement and pride culminating in his victory in the Yasuda Kinen in Japan. He followed that victory with one more convincing win in Hong Kong’s National Day Cup before being retired to the tribute at Sha Tin. His owner, Philip Lau Sakhong said, “He could have raced again but … he is a champion horse and that’s how we want to remember him”. Trainer Ivan Allan said, “ I was lucky to get him. He was a real racehorse and a trainer’s dream … I will never forget him” (sound familiar). While Fairy King Prawn was not the first horse in the Hong Kong Racing Hall of Fame he was the first to achieve International recognition for Hong Kong racing. In addition to the Yasuda Kinen win he also had a 2nd place finish in the Dubai Duty Free and was instrumental in putting Hong Kong Racing on the map.

The following charts list some of the top runners of Danzig and Danehill. There are just too many outstanding performers to list in any other way and this is still a work in progress for both sires. This could be the strongest branch of Northern Dancer’s line.

Claiborne Farms in Kentucky bred Nureyev. Nureyev’s dam Special (1969) had already produced an Irish Champion two year old filly in Fairy Bridge (1975) from her royal genes that traced back to the great mare Rough Shod (1944). Nureyev was expected to bring a healthy price at the July Keeneland yearling sales but no one expected the final price of $1,300,000 paid by Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos. Nureyev was sent to Europe for training where he won his only start as a two year old in the Prix Thomas Byron by six lengths. As a three year old he won his next start in the Prix Djebel before being shipped to England for the Two Thousand Guineas. Nureyev blasted his way through a wall of horses to win the Two Thousand Guineas but for the first time in the long history of the race, he was disqualified and placed last. The Epsom Derby was next on Nureyev’s schedule but a virus kept him out of that race and he would never race again. He was still declared French Champion three year old that year.

Nureyev started his career as a stallion in France before being syndicated for $14,000,000 and sent to Walmac-Warnerton Farm in Kentucky. Walmac-Warnerton would eventually split and Nureyev spent the rest of his days at Walmac International in Lexington Kentucky where he is buried today. John T. L. Jones Jr., the president of Walmac described Nureyev as “a very courageous horse”. He had fertility problems throughout his career as a stallion and almost died after an accident during the 1987 breeding season. A fracture in his right hind leg required surgery and complications left him with just a 10% chance of survival. Not only did he survive but he thrived producing another 15 crops of foals until he death Oct 29,2001 from a cancerous tumor in his right hind hoof. Jones said, “This time, there wasn’t anything we could do for him. Like great friends and great people you know, you’re going to miss them.”

Nureyev sired 135 stakes winners (17% of his foals) with over 20 of those Champions and has almost 100 active sons at stud who have produced over 16,000 foals (71% of those starters). Son Theatrical came from his first full crop in 1982. Theatrical won the 1987 Breeders Cup Turf, to cap off a long and illustrious career as Irish and American Champion. Theatrical is one of the top turf stallions in the world today with over 50 stakes winners to his credit including the three-time Japanese Champion Mare, Hishi Amazon (1991) ($6,981,902 20-10-5-0) and Melbourne Cup winner Media Puzzle (1997) ($2,592,706 20-6-1-6) who was put down after shattering a leg at the finish line of the 2006 Ascot Cup. Media Puzzle was another one of those horses who was an emotional magnet. When he won the Melbourne Cup in 2002 there was barely a dry eye in the house as jockey Damien Oliver saluted the heavens crossing the finish line (his brother and fellow jockey Jason died a week earlier after a spill on the track). When Media Puzzle went down at Ascot it was in front of a huge crowd that included members of the royal family. Trainer Dermot Weld said after Media Puzzle was put down “He was a wonderful servant. He overcame chronic tendon problems in the past. This was very different and sadly he is gone.”

The year Theatrical won the Breeders Cup Turf; Nureyev’s amazing daughter Miesque (1984) ($2,096,517 16-12-3-1) won her first of two back-to-back Breeders Cup Miles in record time. Miesque was a Champion mare in America, England and France over her stellar racing career and as a broodmare has already produced a Champion in the mare East of the Moon (1991) ($790,844 8-4-2-0) and an outstanding young stallion in Kingmambo (1990) ($734,804 13-5-4-2-) who has already produced many Champions and millionaires. East of the Moon died in 2006 after being struck by lightning. She had already produced 3 stakes winners.

Nureyev’s son Spinning World (1993) ($1,734,477 14-8-3-1) was a champion in France and Ireland and won the 1997 Breeders Cup Mile. Peintre Celebre (1994) ($1,496,000 7-5-1-1) was French Champion three year old winning the 1997 Arc de Triomphe in record time. Nureyev’s other principal runners (too many to list here) are listed on the following chart.

The rest of the 1977 crop of Northern Dancer’s foals were so overshadowed by the breeding success of Danzig and Nureyev that they hardly seem worth mentioning but there were some success stories. Swift Bird was a dependable race mare, placing in several stakes but most of her wins were ungraded and she had no successful offspring. Norwegian had modest success in Brazil and Venezuela as a stallion. Disconiz, Stephanie Leigh, Gold Treasure, Katsura and Tiddleypom were all successful broodmares producing several generations of winners and stakes winners. The sons Magesterial, Voodoo Rhythm, North Pole, Kick and Northern Horizon all had varying degrees of success as stallions.

Northern Dancer’s 1977 crop of foals provided a one-two punch of classic stallions in Danzig and Nureyev who have in turn provided a three-four punch in classic stallions with Danehill and Theatrical among many others who will ensure the Dancer’s bloodlines survive well into the 21st century. It’s exciting times for the Dancer offspring but there is plenty of excitement left.
Danzig - what might have been video (3 for 3 starts)
Nureyev winning 2000 Guineas before being DQ'd
Leading Sire Danzig dead at 29 - article from BloodHorse
Great article from DRF and Matt Hegarty on Danzig from NBC site
Nureyev Obituary from the BloodHorse - David Schmitz
Saving Nureyev in 1987 by Kimberly Brown - the BloodHorse
Danehill Article from Max Presnell
Article on Danehill's death from the Age

The 1969 crop's descendants in 2009


Four of the top finishers in this year's Breeders Cup trace back to Lyphard (all through female lines) including the number 2 world ranked mare Goldikova.

Tiznow is sitting in fourth spot on the US General Sires List with over $9,000,000 in winnings so far in 2009.

Invasor's first crop of foals was just born in 2009. We will have to wait a while to see how he does as a stallion.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chapter 14

Lyphard and a South American Hero

... Invasor

Invasor (from

(as always click on charts to enlarge them)

Lyphard was considered by many to be the first “great” sire of Northern Dancer’s sons and in similar fashion to the Dancer he was passed over as a yearling by of all people, Vincent O’Brien. O’Brien thought the colt was too small. He was the “spitting image” of his sire. Lyphard won a handful of significant stake races in France before retiring to stud in 1973.

Lyphard was the Leading sire in North America in 1986, the Leading Sire in France in 1978, 1979 and the Leading Broodmare Sire in France in 1985,1986. He sired 9 Champions in his 115 stakes winners (or14% of his 800 plus foals). Here is a brief summary of some of Lyphard’s best runners. The Champion Grass Horse, Manila (1983) ($2,692,799 18-12-5-0) who won the Breeders Cup Turf and Arlington Million. England’s Champion Three-Year-Old, Dancing Brave (1983) ($1,776,723 10-8-1-0) won the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. The filly, Three Troikas (1976) (3,540,000 francs) was Champion Horse of the Year in France and also won the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. Rainbows For Life (1988) ($1,105,926 36-15-7-7) was Champion Two-Year-Old, Champion Older Horse and Champion Grass horse in Canada, winning the Coronation Futurity and Cup and Saucer amongst his stakes victories. Rainbows For Life was also the Champion Sire of the Czech Republic in 1999, 2004 and 2005.

Lyphard was the broodmare sire of 11 Champions and 205 stakes winners. Here is a brief summary of some of those champion grand children and their dams out of Lyphard. The filly Hatoof (1989) ($1,841,063 21-9-4-1) was the Eclipse Champion Turf Mare counting The Thousand Guineas, The Beverly D and the E.P. Taylor Stakes amongst her wins. She was the daughter of Cadeaux D’Amie (1984) who was also the dam of Irish Prize (1996) ($1,242,380 27-10-4-2). Tight Spot (1987) ($1,556,500 21-12-3-1) was the Champion Grass Horse winning the Arlington Million. Tight Spot was out of the dam Premium Win (1981) who was also the dam of Valiant Nature (1991) ($466,500 8-2-1-3).

Perhaps the most significant broodmare from Lyphard was Bubble Company (1977). She was the dam of Bubble Gum Fellow (1993) (554,430,000 yen 13-7-2-3), Champion Two-Year-Old Colt in Japan, winning several stake races and finishing third in the Japan Cup. She was also the dam of Intimiste (1987) ($256,628) and Air Notorious (1995) but her most famous son was the lightly raced Candy Stripes (1982) ($41,738 6-2-1-0).

Candy Stripes was out of Blushing Groom (1974), bred in Kentucky by Allen Cowen, he raced in France winning two of his six starts and finishing second in the Poule d’Essaie des Poulains. He returned to the U.S. for stallion duty before being shipped off
to Argentina in 1988 where he became an International star as a stallion and Argentina’s leading sire twice. From 1,010 foals of racing age, he has produced 465 winners and 59 stakes winners of almost $30,000,000 and ten Champions in Argentina, Canada, United States and South Africa. Two of his most famous sons are Leroidesanimaux (2000) ($1,658,377 13-9-2-0), Champion Turf Male and winner of 8 consecutive races including the Frank E Kilroe Mile, Atto Mile and Citation Handicap and the very special Invasor (2002) ($4,204,070 11-10-0-0).

The story of Invasor sends shivers down my spine and has some interesting similarities to the story of his great, great grandfather (our Dancer). Invasor was bred in Argentina by Haras Clausan. He is described as a black-pointed bay with a small white star. He was bought as a two year old by two brothers and a friend from Uruguay. Jaun Luis and Luis Alberto Vio Bado along with Pablo Hernandez flew to Argentina to see some horses. When a smaller plane had engine failure they were forced to visit some local farms near Buenos Aires by car. Eighty colts and fillies later they were “hit with Cupid’s arrow” when they saw Invasor. The asking price was $25,000 (sound familiar) but they were able to negotiate that down to $20,000 before they closed the deal and shipped him home to Uruguay. Invasor won his maiden race by over 6 lengths in February 2005 but fractured his right hind sesamoid bone and needed surgery. He reappeared in August 2005 to win the Ensayo stakes by over 7 lengths. What Invasor accomplished after that was truly incredible. He won the first leg of Uruguay’s Triple Crown, the Gran Premio Polla de Potrillos in September 2005 by almost 6 lengths. In October he won the second leg, the Gran Premio Jockey Club by over 3 lengths before completing the Triple Crown with a 6-length victory in the Gran Premio Nacional.

It was at that point Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum made the brothers and Pablo an offer they couldn’t refuse … $1,400,000. Invasor had only won the equivalent of $113,866 in winning the Uruguay Triple Crown. Invasor was on his way to Dubai via Florida for some training. His next start in the UAE Derby was Invasor’s only loss in his career. He was caught in traffic but still managed a respectable fourth only a half-length out of second but well behind the winner, Discreet Cat. Invasor went back to the U.S. where he won his next three starts, the Pimlico Special, Suburban and Whitney Handicaps. He developed a fever that took him out of the Jockey Club Gold Cup but his next start would be the Breeders Cup Classic.

Invasor had become a National hero in Uruguay, despite being sold to the Sheikh and racing in the U.S. he had a following that ranked him with Uruguay’s National soccer team. The simulcast locations in Uruguay are packed whenever Invasor is racing. On November 4, 2006 Invasor sent the Uruguayans into a frenzy upsetting Bernardini, Lava Man and European Champion George Washington to win the Breeders Cup Classic with 18-year-old jockey Fernando Jara in the irons. Invasor was named the Eclipse Horse of the Year for 2006. From those humble beginnings in Argentina, Invasor had risen to the pinnacle of his sport, carrying the weight of three Nations on his back. Invasor has already won his first start in 2007 and may never see Uruguay or Argentina again. It will be fun to watch his career as a stallion unfold. Leroisdesanimaux is already standing at stud at Stonewall Farm in Kentucky.

Candy Stripes died Feb 28, 2007 at Haras Carampagne in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina because of colic; his dam Bubble Company passed away May 24, 1996. This chapter in Northern dancer’s history is a long way from over.

Lyphard’s foals were spread over 23 crops from 1974 to 1996. He lived to the ripe old age of 36 and was euthanized June 10, 2005. Lyphard’s most successful sons to carry on his and the Dancer’s line were Lypheor (1975), Bellypha (1976), Lyphard’s Wish (1976) and Pharly (1974)

Lypheor only produced 8 crops, he had to be euthanized in 1985 at the young age of eleven but in that short span he was one of the leading sires in Japan with 3 Champions and 24 stakes winners. Lypheor was the sire of broodmares who produced 20 stakes winners.

Bellypha sired many stakes winners but the one who is most responsible for carrying on his and the Dancer’s male line is the French bred Mendez (1981) who is the sire of Linamix (1987) (543,705 pounds 10-4-4-0), the beautiful gray French bred who was the Leading Sire in France 1998 and 2004. Linamix has sired 20 winners of more than 200,000 British pounds already since his first crop in 1992 and 18 of those 20 are males. The future of this branch of the Dancer’s male line looks very safe. Lyphard’s Wish on the other hand produced several good runners but it seems to be the mares who had the most success in the breeding shed.

Pharly had a short but outstanding racing career (1,547,500 francs 13-5-5-1) winning 3 Grade 1 stakes in France. Pharly fractured his pelvis and was euthanized in 2002 after siring 44 stakes winners in 22 crops of foals.

The above chart summarizes Lyphard’s principal runners.


Nice Dancer was the second leading money winner from the Dancer’s crop of 1969. He was the Champion Three-Year-Old in Canada, winning the Manitoba Derby and Breeder’s Stakes amongst his stakes victories. He was also a fairly successful sire in Canada before moving to Japan in 1979. He sired 1981 Queen’s Plate winner Fiddle Dancer Boy and several solid broodmares including Jolly Polka, the dam of Glide Path, winner of Sweden’s biggest race, The Stockholm Cup. The jewel of Nice Dancer’s family was the lightly raced mare Lonely Dancer, a prolific Canadian bred mare who produced 11 winners out of her 15 foals including Cee’s Song. Cee’s Song was the dam of the 2000 Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and Horse of the Year, Tiznow (1997) ($6,427,830 15-8-4-2) and the rags to riches gelding Budroyale who was claimed for $50,000 before going on to win $2,840,810. While Lyphard was considered the first great sire of the Dancer’s sons, it might be Nice Dancer through his female line who has the best chance of extending the Dancer’s line. Tiznow topped off a brilliant racing career with one of the greatest stretch battles in Breeders Cup history, winning the 2000 Classic over another Northern Dancer great-grandson in Giant’s Causeway. Now those two descendants of our Dancer (Giant’s Causeway through male lines) are “duking it out” for young sire honours in 2005. Tiznow was the leading sire of first crop sires while Giant’s Causeway was the leading sire of second crop sires and they were first and third in leading sires of two-year-olds with Giant’s Causeway on top.

Barachois was the third leading money winner from the Dancer’s 1969 crop. His record did not look that impressive with only 4 wins and 2 seconds but one of those wins was in the Queen’s Plate Trials and he finished second in the Queen’s Plate. Barachois was fairly successful as a sire with his leading money winner Win (1980) ($1,407,210 44-14-10-3) another rags to riches gelding. He won many stakes including the Man ‘O War Stakes at the age of five and the Manhattan Handicap twice. He was purchased for $8,000 in 1982 and Win was the first NY bred millionaire. He retired at the age of five and came out of retirement to race at the age of nine when he had a first and third in five starts. Barachois’s next group of money earners were all durable runners, racking up almost 400 starts between the five of them. They were Bara Lass (1979) ($542,362 60-17-9-11), Georgie’s Doctor (1986) ($205,181 37-5-8-4), Gallery Miss (1974) ($198,754 124-16-22-17), Fort Prevel (1974) ($198,327 83-8-14-13) and Casino Action (1984) ($106,358 89-21-17-11), a pretty strong statement about durability.

Gay Northerner was an outstanding broodmare producing 10 winners out of 12 foals.

The Dancer’s lightly raced daughter Royal Statute is a key to future generations and was an outstanding broodmare. She was the dam of Akureyri (1978) ($226,668 12-5-4-1), a stakes winner with a second in the Florida Derby and a respectable sire in his own rite.

Royal Statute’s daughter, Awaasif (1979) was the Champion Three-Year-Old in Britain, winning stakes in England, Italy and finished 3rd in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. Awaasif was the dam of a few good runners including the mare Snow Bride (1986) (170,881 pounds 7-5-0-0), winner of the Oaks amongst other stakes and the dam of several great runners including the incredible, undefeated Lammtarra (1992) ($1,983,527 4-4-0-0) out of distant cousin Nijinsky. We talked about him earlier.

The Dancer’s 1969 crop of foals was certainly an interesting one and one that looks like it has secured his bloodlines for a very long time but it may not have been his best.

Great article from Steve Haskins about Invasor
Breeders Cup 2006 - Invasor
Dubai World Cup 2007 - Invasor
The Donn Handicap - impressive performance

Tiznow in a great stretch battle with Giant's Causeway - Breeders Cup Classic 2000


Tiznow winning Breeders Cup Classic 2001 (only double winner)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races - - (amazing stuff)


(click on photo to enlarge - it's breathtaking)
Vision D'Etat winning the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup
Photo from Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Race site where there are dozens of gorgeous photos to go along with beautiful high def videos

It was a perfect 12 for 12 in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races for descendants of our little Dancer as the top 3 in these four events took home over 50 million Hong Kong dollars on the day (that's over $6 million US).

Hong Kong Cup

Vision D'Etat 11,000,000 HK$ Great Great Grandson
Collection 4,000,000 Great Grandson
Presvis 2,000,000 Great Great Great Grandson

Video Link - great quality

Hong Kong Mile

Good Ba Ba 8,800,000 HK$ Great Great Grandson
Happy Zero 3,200,000 Great Great Grandson
Fellowship 1,600,000 Great Great Grandson
This was Good Ba Ba's third consecutive Hong Kong Mile victory. It earned him Horse of the Year honours in Hong Kong.

Video Link - great quality again - great finish by BA BA

Hong Kong Vase

Daryakana 7,700,000 HK$ Great Granddaughter
Spanish Moon 2,800,000 Great Grandson
Kasbah Bliss 1,400,000 Great Great Grandson
Video link

Hong Kong Sprint

Sacred Kingdom 6,600,000 HK$ Great Grandson
One World 2,400,000 Great Grandson
Joy And Fun 1,200,000 Great Grandson

Video link

Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races Link
(I can't say enough great things about this site. This event has become one of my favorites every year and it's mainly because of their website - incredible stuff and amazing multimedia)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Argentina's Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini is in the books


Marcelo Sarachi Photo

It's another 1-2-3 finish for Northern Dancer descendants in the 121st running of Argentina's classic Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini at San Isidro.

Interaction (Arg) 1st 840,000 al Great Great Grandson
Life of Victory (Arg) 2nd 210,000 al Great Great Great Grandson
Jeune-Turc (Brz) 3rd 126,000 al Great Grandson


In just a few hours it will be time for the Hong Kong Cup and a full day of classics in Hong Kong.

Video of this year's race

My previous post about this year's Major International races

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Nijinsky, Fanfreluche & Vice Regent - 2009


It's easy to see the impact of Nijinsky and Vice Regent on today's thoroughbred scene. In this year's Breeders Cup over 1/3 of the Dancer's descendants came through Nijinsky lines (11 female and 2 male lines). There were 3 decendants of Vice Regent (all females).

Understandably, you have to look a little harder to see the impact of one of my favorite mares of all time - Fanfreluche - but for a mare she is still having quite an impact. She was represented in this year's Breeders Cup by her great great great grandsons Cannonball who finished 3rd in the Turf Sprint and Justenuffhumor who finished 3rd in the Mile. Both those boys were out of mares from her champion firstborn L'Enjoleur's line.

She has 2 descendants in the top 30 world rankings this year. Great great great grandsons Sacred Kingdom ranked #18 and Viewed ranked #23. Sacred Kingdom won the Hong Kong Sprint above which should move him up the ladder a bit.

Australia's leading sire in 2007/8 was Fanny's great great grandson Encosta de Lago. Flying Spur is another solid Australian sire and great great grandson. It looks like these two will make sure she still has an impact for a few years to come.

I overlooked one more of the characters from that 1967 crop back in 2005 but she might be worth mentioning now. As a runner Christmas Wishes was in the money in almost 80% of her 23 starts. She was also a pretty successful broodmare but I don't think her most significant descendant showed up until 2006 or so and we will not know what kind of sire he is for a few more years. Her great great grandson Discreet Cat was born in 2003. He won the UAE Derby and Cigar Mile and earned over $1.5 million. He was undefeated until he ran into Invasor in the Dubai World Cup but who knows what would have happened if he was not diagnosed with a tumour on his throat after the race. He had a couple of 3rd place finishes to end his career and now stands at the Godolphin farm. His first crop is just hitting the track. Let's keep an eye out for Discreet Cat and Christmas Wishes going forward as well. What a second crop the Dancer produced.

Chapter 12

Fanny, get your gun

(Tales of kidnapping and murder)

The Dancer's second crop of foals in 1967 produced some pretty special horses.

(click on charts to enlarge them)

Nijinsky’s race record has been well documented but as a sire he surpassed his father, producing 155 stakes winners (18% of his total foals) and broodmare sire to more than 240 stakes winners. He was the leading sire in England in 1986 and leading broodmare sire in 1993 and 1994. He produced many champions and winners of the Epsom Derby, Kentucky Derby and three Breeders Cups. His most notable runners appear on the chart that follows.

Ferdinand ($3,777,978 29-8-9-6) was the leading money winner of the Nijinsky crops. The handsome chestnut won the 1986 Kentucky Derby and followed that up in 1987 winning the Breeders Cup Classic nosing out the 1987 Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba. The victory in the Classic earned Ferdinand Horse of the Year honours in 1987. The rest of Ferdinand’s story is sad. He had no success as a stallion and in 1994 was shipped off to Japan for another shot as a sire. It was discovered some time later that he probably met his end in a slaughterhouse in Japan. Despite his regal breeding and great success on the track he was not immune from the fate that meets many less talented thoroughbreds. New York owners and breeders introduced a “Ferdinand Fee” in 2006 to funnel money into charities involved in the rescue and retirement of thoroughbreds and a he was instrumental in legislation changes that are pending in the US.

Sky Classic ($3,320,398 29-15-6-1) was Nijinsky’s next leading money winner and a member of Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. He was a Sovereign award winner at two and double Sovereign award winner at four when he won several stakes including the Rothmans where he established a turf record for 1-1/2 miles. He was injured for most of his three-year old campaign. As a five-year old he won the Arlington and Manhattan Handicaps (he set a Belmont track record for 1-1/2 miles in the Manhattan) and finished second in the Arlington Million and Breeders cup Turf. Sky Classic went on to a very successful career as a stallion where he had 317 winners from his first 11 crops. His most successful progeny to date was the 2006 Sovereign award winner Sky Conqueror ($1,688,534 17-7-2-3).

One of Nijinsky’s top producing daughters was the lightly raced Jood (1989). Among her 5 winners was the World Champion Fantastic Light (1996) ($8,486,957 25-12-5-3) winner of the Breeders Cup Turf, Hong Kong Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic.


Undefeated Lammtarra’s ($1,983,527 4-4-0-0) story is another amazing tale that is stranger than fiction. The son of Nijinsky raced only once as a two-year-old and won but injured himself shortly thereafter. His trainer Alex Scott (age 34) was shot dead on Sept 30, 1994. A disgruntled employee was later convicted of the murder. Lammtarra (Arabic for “invisible”) was sent to Dubai to heal for his owner Saeed Maktoum Al Maktoum and get acquainted with his new trainer. Lammtarra fell ill with an abscess on a lung and almost died himself.

Lammtarra entered England’s Classic, the Epsom Derby coming off his illness without a prep race. Lammtarra won, breaking a 60 year-old record in the process.

Before he was shot, Alex Scott placed a wager of 1,600 pounds on Lammtarra to win the Derby (some 10 months before the event). The win would have earned 54,000 pounds for Scott but bets like this, according to British law, die with the bettor. In this case, the law was ignored and the bookie paid the widow in full.

From there it was on to Ascot and the King George VI – Queen Elizabeth Stakes where in scary but typical fashion, Lammtarra came from behind to win again. On his tribute website they described his ability to accelerate as “sprouting wings to power past the field”. People have been at a loss for words to describe the same ability to accelerate in Nijinsky and the Dancer … this one fits them all.

In his final race (the race his sire could not win), Lammtarra won the French Classic, Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. That would be Lammtarra`s last race. He was sold for 4,400,000,000 yen ($30 million US) and stands at stud today in Dubai for his Japanese owners where he carries on both male lines (through Nijinsky) and female lines of the Dancer (through daughter Royal Statute (1969)).


The Dancer’s daughter, Fanfreluche (Fanny) had an outstanding racing career. She was Canadian horse of the year in 1970 and Champion 3 year old filly in the United States. She won 9 stakes including the Manitoba Derby, Quebec Derby, Alabama Stakes at Saratoga and Benson and Hedges where she set a track record. She was 2nd in the Queen’s Plate, Canadian Oaks and Spinster Stakes at Keeneland. After a stellar racing career she was destined for the famous Claiborne farms where she started her career as a broodmare for owner Jean-Louis Levesque, the prominent Quebec industrialist and outspoken political supporter of a united Canada.

Fanny’s first born was the outstanding colt L’Enjoleur (1972) out of Buckpasser. L’Enjoleur ($546,079 30-15-4-2) was two-time, Canadian Horse of the Year, winning many stakes including the Laurel Futurity and the Queen’s Plate (the Queen’s Plate victory fulfilled a life long dream for Levesque). In 1975 Fanny delivered the filly, La Voyageuse ($524,393 56-26-10-7) sired by Ten Tam and in 1977 the Secretariat sired colt Medaille D’or ($148,750 17-3-5-4).

On June 25, 1977 Fanny was in foal to Secretariat for the second time and grazing in her paddock on the lush 3,200 acres of Claiborne’s nursery when she disappeared. It didn’t take long for police and the staff to determine she had been kidnapped in broad daylight just after 5 pm in the afternoon. There was an intense search and a reward offered but nothing turned up and to make matters worse Fanny was on medication to prevent a miscarriage.

Why Fanfreluche? There were so many other mares, yearlings and weanlings to pick from, many of them pegged at a higher value than her $500,000 insurance value not to mention the multi-million dollar syndicated stallions like Nijinsky and Secretariat on the property. It was a story worthy of a mystery novel, her disappearance happened at the exact time the Queen’s Plate was going to post in Canada where Levesque had another horse entered. When Fanfreluche finished second in the 1970 Queen’s Plate separatist terrorists bombed Levesque’s home. They did not take kindly to his participation in an event honoring the British monarch. It was looking like her kidnapping may have been politically motivated. There was never a ransom demand and almost everyone had given up hope of finding her when in December the FBI stumbled on Brandy, a pregnant mare being used as a riding horse on an old farm in Tomkinsville, Kentucky. It was Fanny.

In July, a neighbor of the farmer found the mare running loose near the side of a road, roped her and took her to the farmer assuming it was one of the farmer’s horses. The farmer reported her to the local sheriff but the connection was never made. When no one claimed the mare he thought his wife could enjoy her as a saddle horse and they named her Brandy. Ron Turcotte, Canada’s hall of fame jockey would have been impressed to see the farmer’s wife ride Brandy, considering he was the only jockey who could handle the mare who had inherited her sire’s ornery disposition. The police feel the kidnappers just turned her loose in the backwoods of Kentucky over 100 miles from the scene of the crime where she would have to fend for herself. Not only was she alive, she was still in foal and gave birth to “Sain et Sauf” (Safe and Sound) in 1978. Sain et Sauf did race and won but otherwise was not very successful. Fanny went on to deliver 12 more foals including D’accord (1979) ($163,368 10-5-2-1) another Secretariat colt and her last foal born in 1991, Red Alydar ($544,227 21-4-3-2) by Alydar.

Fanfreluche, Jean-Louis Levesque and Ron Turcotte are all members of the Canadian Horse Racing hall of fame along with the Dancer, of course.

Swinging Apache from that 2nd Dancer crop raced 6 times winning all 6 including the Ascot Sophomore Stakes, Canadian Derby and Harbour Handicap. I have not been able to determine what happened to Swinging Apache, he did not race again nor did he breed (in fact he may have been a gelding but I could not confirm that).

Vice Regent was a full brother to the Canadian Champion Viceregal from Dancer’s first crop. Vice Regent would only race 5 times winning twice and earning a paltry $6,215 but as a sire he was by far, the most successful brother and still keeps the Dancer’s bloodlines alive today. Vice Regent was Canada’s leading sire for 13 years, siring over 400 foals with 60 of them being stakes winners and 16 of them earning in excess of $400,000 including the fillies Twice The Vice (1991) ($1,447,064 23-12-6-1) and Bessarabian (1982) ($1,032,640 37-18-5-4), colts Regal Intention (1985) ($1,083,103 41-14-7-10) Regal Classic (1985) ($1,056,584 27-8-8-3) and Deputy Minister (1979) ($606,964 22-12-2-2) who would go on to be the leading sire in the U.S. in 1997, 1998 and a top 10 broodmare sire since 2001.

Deputy Minister sired over 1000 foals in 20 crops from 1985 until his death in September 2004. He sired over 81 stakes winners so far who have tallied over $70,000,000 in earnings. A chart of Deputy Minister’s best performers follows.

Great story about Fanny from Barbara Livingston with a couple pics

Fanfreluche - Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame
Deputy Minister - Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame
Vice Regent - Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame
Nijinsky - Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Japan Cup 2009 in the books


(Vodka on right - chestnut Oken Bruce Lee on left from Reuters)

The year of the mare continues as the mare Vodka won the 2009 Japan Cup by a whisker over the fast closing Oken Bruce Lee who had to come from dead last at the top of the stretch in the eighteen horse field. What a finish as another filly Red Desire finished third. The five-year-old Vodka becomes the first Japanese female to top the $10 million mark in career earnings and will most likely retire. It's always exciting watching the Japan Cup in Japanese. The crowd at one point looks an American football crowd waving their little souvenirs. One of the owners of Vodka breaks down when the photo finally comes up (it took an eternity according to some). You will never be able to convince me this is not an emotional sport (in any language). Jockey Christophe Lemaire thought he had lost it at the wire but the photo proved otherwise. Vodka was not a descendant of the Dancer but Oken Bruce Lee and Red Desire were. I will leave their earnings for the race in Yen and let you do the conversion - staggering purses in Japan.

1) Vodka 293,000,000 yen
2) Oken Bruce Lee 106,000,000 yen Great Great Grandson (X3)
3) Red Desire 53,000,000 yen Great Great Granddaughter (X2)

Great Japanese HQ video of the race

My previous post about the Dancer's International Impact by classic race (before Japan Cup run)

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Dancer - Review

This is a quick review of the blog so far in terms of my original book published in 2008 but started in 2005. I wanted to put the chapters in their original order with links back to their position in the blog. The blog has just built on the original data from 2005 and I think continues to show the impact Northern Dancer has had on his sport. This year has been a good one to come in for a snapshot of the sport as we head into a new decade and to celebrate the anniversary of his death by revisiting Windfields Farm before it becomes another subdivision. From any of these links you can just keep hitting the newer links to get the 2009 perspective and home to get back here. You can always click on the blog archive on the bottom right of the blog which have the blog posts listed in the order they were posted.

Chapter 1
A New National Hero (May 2, 1964)

Chapter 2
Our Hero Has Become A Legend (Oct 29, 2005)

Chapter 3
Nijinsky (Sept 12, 1970)

Chapter 4
The Dancer's International Impact (Dec 31,2005)

Chapter 6
The Dancer's Place In History

Chapter 8
A Champion Becomes A Legend - Makybe Diva (Nov 1, 2005)

Chapter 9
Inaugural World Rankings (Nov 2005)

Chapter 39
A Sentimental Journey to Windfields Farm (Feb, 2006)

Monday, November 23, 2009

This year's special horse


Sea the Stars winning le Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe

(photo from the Times - Boris Horvat)

In prepping for the posts surrounding my old chapter 9, I thought I would look for this year’s Makybe Diva type of story. In this year, which could have easily been described as the year of the filly and mare after the Breeders Cup, I didn’t have to look past the year’s world number one ranked thoroughbred for my story.

Sea the Stars did not cross the ocean to make one last start in the Breeders Cup. He retired to stud on a winning note after winning le prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on October 4, 2009. It was his eighth straight victory after finishing 4th in his maiden start as a two-year-old in 2008 and what a stretch of great victories in 2009. The 2000 Guineas followed by the Epsom Derby and the Eclipse Stakes then the Juddmonte International followed by the Irish Champion Stakes and finally the Arc. As if that list was not impressive enough it was the way he did it. I watched a few of these races as I researched the races themselves without putting together the big picture until now. Every one of these wins was dramatic and breathtaking. He has been described as “pure box-office, with a timing and delivery to match Hollywood's finest” and by some “one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all time”. You have to watch the videos linked here to understand this “super” star. His trademark is to come from behind and thread the needle with his ears pinned back to find a seam to attack the leaders and wear them down. He is amazing to watch and has become a fan favorite even in France.

He is the son of Cape Cross out of Green Desert out of Danzig so it could be another strong male line for our Dancer. There are some, saying his value could be in excess of $100 million as a stallion. But in this the year of the mare we may want to look at his dam, Urban Sea. Urban Sea won the Arc herself in 1993 (one of only 5 fillies to accomplish that feat). She is also one of only two mares to produce Epsom and Eclipse double winners. She was also the dam of Galileo, the other Epsom/Eclipse double winner and already a leading sire in Britain. Tragically, Urban Sea died this year giving birth to her last foal. The foal survived the birth.

The owner of Sea the Stars is the 27 year-old nightclub owner, with his trademark Ipod ear buds stuck in his ears, Christopher Tsui. His parents, the Hong Kong based, David and Ling Tsui wanted their son to get more involved in their racing business so he was installed as the owner of Sea the Stars. In one of his early assignments as owner, the young man passed out from excitement after his horse won the Eclipse stakes in July. He will not make the same mistake as his parents who sold their interest in half brother Galileo before he reached the track and now he looks like he could be the heir apparent to Sadler’s Wells as Britain’s top stallion. Tsui has turned down the offers from Sheikh Mohammed who will probably end up with a partial interest in the breeding rights of this latest superstar.

The trainer and jockey of Sea the Stars are just as interesting as those of Makybe Diva (or maybe even Seabiscuit). Veterinarian, John Oxx has trained in the shadow of Ballydoyle’s dynamic duo of Vincent and Aidan O’Brien (no relation) ever since he started training in 1979. In fact in this year’s Juddmonte International it was just a four-horse field with Sea the Stars and three Aidan O’Brien trained horses but John Oxx doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone when it comes to his training record and it looks like Sea the Stars will “see” to that.

Jockey, Michael (Mick) Kinane was aboard Sea the Stars in all 9 of his starts. He has been Ireland’s leading jockey thirteen times. He has won the Epsom Derby three times as well as the 2000 Guineas, Melbourne Cup in Australia and the Belmont Stakes in the US. He may retire shortly and would certainly go out a winner after the season he had with Sea the Stars. Once again, you have to watch the videos to appreciate not only Sea the Stars but also the performances of Mick. Mick also bred the 2007 Epsom Derby winner and Northern Dancer great-grandson Authorized.

Despite the amazing performances of the mares this year it’s Sea the Stars who gets my vote as horse of the year in this the Chinese year of the Ox(x).

Great little tribute to Sea the Stars after the Arc

1) Link to 2000 Guineas Video

2) Link to the Epsom Derby Video

3) Link to the Eclipse Stakes Video

4) Link to the Juddmonte International Video

5) Link to the Irish Champion Stakes Video

6) Link to the Prix l'Arc de Triomphe Video

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Latest World Rankings

Here are the latest world rankings from the International Federation of Horse Racing. Just as it was in 2005 - all but one of the top 30 are direct descendants of Northern Dancer. I added the lifetime earnings for each horse - they are approximate. Eighteen of the thirty are direct male descendants.

Link to World Rankings

Chapter 9


Inaugural World Rankings

Rewind to November 2005

Makybe Diva was ranked as the 10th best thoroughbred in the world in November 2005.

In 2005, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities published their inaugural world rankings. The International Federation was officially formed in 1983 to protect the integrity of the sport and its breeding. The Federation’s roots went back to 1961 when the major international players met for the first time and now in 2005 they had developed a system to rank their best International performers. It’s shades of golf and its world rankings versus the PGA of America earnings, which used to be Golf’s primary standard for performance.

Like the sport of golf, thoroughbred racing owes a lot of its International success to the American development of the sport (despite having its roots in Europe) but also like golf, thoroughbred racing has become a “truly” International sport and the IFHA have done a great job in compiling statistics to rank the best thoroughbreds of 2005.

Here are the top thirty performers as of November 2, 2005. Twenty-nine of the thirty are direct descendants of our Dancer. The only horse who is not a direct descendant is Silent Witness, tied for thirteenth in the rankings. Ironically, Silent Witness is the only gelding in the top thirty and therefore the only horse on the list who will not be extending his or her breeding line. Silent Witness does have a strong connection to our Dancer through his sire El Moxie who is out of the Dancer’s half sister, Raise The Standard out of the Dancer’s dam Natalma.

The list represents breeding from seven different countries and the winners of every major International race in the federation’s 55 different countries. In addition to having that one common thread of our Dancer’s bloodline, the twenty-nine horses on the list share in their ability to excel at the highest level of their sport. The top 16 on the list, down to Silent Witness have a combined record of (213-112-38-21) and lifetime earnings to this point of almost $33,000,000. That is a winning percentage over 50% and top 3 finishes of over 80% against the best thoroughbreds in the world.

The ratio of direct male descendants to descendants through female lines is fairly evenly split with 55% of the descendants, direct males. Six of the twenty-nine are through the Danzig line with five of those six, direct males. Sadlers Wells, Nureyev and Lyphard have four descendants each. There are many on the list with multiple genetic links to the Dancer, I only included the first link in each case. Danehill is the most successful grandson on the list with four descendants in the top 30 but Montjeu has 2 in the top 5.

(these charts were not the greatest in my book either - click to enlarge and you should get the idea - when I update with this years rankings I will improve the charts)

Quick Link back to Chapter 8 for original book flow - hit home to return to here

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Latest Numbers on Leading Sires of 2009

Here are the latest numbers on International Sires earnings up to November 20,2009 for only descendants of our little Dancer. As always these days the Japanese purses tend to dominate the International earnings list with their huge prize money but there are several countries represented here. I had to use a staggered year to bring in the Australian and New Zealand numbers since their season runs July to June.

I used the top 100 according to and found 75% were descendants of Northern Dancer and added another 10 from the Australian/New Zealand list. In just these 86 sires we have over 640 million dollars in earnings in less than one year of racing.

Notice who is sitting on the list with $5.4 million in offspring earnings - the Dancer's retired son, Sadler's Wells. All Sadler's Wells has done over his stallion career is lead Britain's sires list 14 times since 1990 with 13 of those years in a row from 1992-2004 (he finished 2nd in 1991). He also led the French list 3 times and the North American list once. (click on them to enlarge a chart)

Bloodhorse Leading International Sires

Friday, November 20, 2009

Let's refresh that 2005 leading sires chart

I will not have complete data for 2009 for a while so here is the chart for 2008. Click on the chart to enlarge it - you may have to click it twice.

International Cataloguing Standards from the Jockey Club Information Systems

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chapter 6

The Dancer's Place in History

The history of thoroughbreds in North America dates back to the early 1700’s. A British colony for the better part of the next century, the United States was dominated in those early years by imported sires, primarily from Britain.

American leading sires lists (by earnings) date back to 1860 when the stallion, Revenue, led the earnings list for sires with $49,450 to his credit. For the next 14 years that list would be led by the great sire Lexington, an American record that will probably never be broken. Lexington also led the list two more years in 1876 and 1878 and was very instrumental in Kentucky’s prominence as a thoroughbred breeding state. While Kentucky’s rich soil and perfect climate provided the ideal setting for the grazing thoroughbred it was the presence of the dominant sire Lexington that would attract breeders to the area and establish the blue grass state’s tradition as the hub of thoroughbred breeding in North America.

Despite his dominance as a sire, no direct male offspring of Lexington would ever lead the sires list. Lexington’s male line of descendants would eventually vanish but his genes would survive through his female descendants where almost 75% of the leading sires since Himyar (1893) carried the genes of Lexington, including our Northern Dancer. Through the Dancer’s sire Nearctic and his sire Nearco, you can trace the lines to Lexington. Nearco’s 3rd dam Sibola (1896) won the 1899 One Thousand Guineas and was the granddaughter of Lexington through his daughter Maiden (1862).

It is interesting to look back on the history of the American thoroughbred to see how its roots are traced to Europe and how some 275 years later, America is now an exporter and leading producer of thoroughbreds in the world. In the early 1900’s however, America was still an importer and what makes Nearco a bit of an oddity is that small trace of American blood through Lexington. Nearco was Italian bred with three generations of European breeding except for his 3rd dam Sibola, the American bred granddaughter of Lexington. It is fascinating today, to follow the flow of breeding from Europe to America and back again and to see the influence Northern Dancer had on that flow. Before him, his great, great grandmother Sibola was setting the trend.

Northern Dancer only led the American leading sire’s list once in 1971 but he did lead England’s sire list four times in 1970, 1977, 1983 and 1984. Some sources have Northern Dancer on top of the North American list in 1977 also but Dr Fager had more North American earnings (The Dancer had more international earnings). What has preserved Northern Dancer’s place in history has been his success as a sire of sires with what has become the most dominant male line of thoroughbreds in the world today.

Lexington’s record of 14 straight years atop the leading sires list in America may never be touched but Northern Dancer’s son Sadler’s Wells has led England’s sire list for the past 13 years straight (1992-2004), he also led the American list in 1995. Lyphard was the first of Dancer’s sons to lead the American sires list in 1986. The Dancer’s son, Danzig led the American sire’s list three straight years from 1991-1993 while another son, Storm Cat led the list in 1999 and 2000 and sandwiched in between are grandsons Deputy Minister in 1997, 1998 and Palace Music in 1996. In fact, since 1991 only two of America’s leading sires do not have Northern Dancer’s genes (Broad Brush 1994 and Kris S. 2003). The Dancer’s son, Vice Regent was Canada’s leading sire for thirteen years.

France’s leading sire list has been occupied by sons of Northern Dancer 9 times. Lyphard (1978, 1979), Nureyev (1987, 1997), Sadler’s Wells (1993, 1994, 1999), Fabulous Dancer (1992) and Fairy King (1996). The next generations, Montjeu and Linamix have led the French sire’s list 2 of the past 3 years.

The Dancer’s offspring were also successful breeding outside North America and Europe. Son Northern Taste led the Japanese sire’s list 10 times (eight years in a row 1985-1992). Grandson Danehill led the Australian sire’s list 9 of the past 11 years.
In Argentina, grandson Southern Halo from daughter Northern Sea led the sires’ list 8 years in a row from 1994-2001 and again in 2003. In New Zealand it’s great grandson Volksraad leading sires for the past 3 years (2002-2004) and before him grandson Zabeel led 4 years in a row from 1998-2001. India’s leading sire for 6 of the past 8 years has been Northern dancer’s son Razeen. Venezuela’s leading sire from 2001-2003 was grandson George Augustus. South Africa’s leading sire for 2 of the past 3 years has been great grandson Western Winter and before him, grandson Fort Wood (1998) and son Northern Guest in 1989.

Northern Dancer’s line will survive well into the 21st century and he has solidified his place in the history of thoroughbred racing.

Every year countries have various ways of recognizing their thoroughbred champions. Here is a compiled list of Leading International sires by country or region for 2005 where Northern Dancer’s bloodlines are present. There are 23 countries or regions represented here from Argentina to Zimbabwe.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nov 16, 1990 Northern Dancer was humanely destroyed


He lived to the ripe age of 29 which is quite old for a thoroughbred. His last crop of foals was born in 1988 which meant he had an incredibly long career as a stallion as well as a great one.
Here is a great news clip from the day he died with tributes pouring into Windfields from all around the world.

A few more farewell pics

(click on images to enlarge them)

Let's blow up a few pics from yesterday

(click on any to get full size)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mission accomplished - it wasn't easy


(click on photo to enlarge)

The four hour return trip was bearable. The uncertainty of what to expect when we got their was difficult. The early signs were good, buildings still standing but when we got to the gate it was closed with a new sign "Strictly Private Property, sorry no visitors". I said I would do whatever it took to put my flowers on his grave. The first problem was finding a place to park - the main gate area was too small. We pulled into the south entrance where we parked in the driveway of an abandoned house on the property. We waited a few minutes and when no one came out we decided we would see how far we could get, after all on my first trip here when it was a working farm, I never saw a human for over an hour and now the place looked deserted. We walked slowly at first up the long tree lined laneway but the farther we got, the faster we walked. We were almost to the arena and still not a person to be seen. We took one last look back at the car, it was barely visible and no tow truck in sight. A few of the buildings were in rough shape but the place still looked amazing and so serene. We went directly to the graves. I would take my pictures on the way out. We put our single red rose and gerby substitute for a black-eyed susan on his headstone. Mission accomplished. I started snapping photos as we slowly walked away. A person drove up in a car but went right on by without a wave or a comment. We were really taking our time now. It was Linda's first time to see the farm in person, it's too bad she couldn't see it busy with mares and weanlings and yearlings but you could still feel the majesty of the place. As we got to the laneway to take us out to the car we heard a tractor over on the main driveway, he turned toward us ... busted. We told him we were on our way out and just wanted to put some flowers on the grave. He apologized and said he was just doing his job. We had a Windfields police (tractor) escort out of the farm. The thirty minutes we were on the farm seemed like five but we did get to say goodbye and this video contains most of my shots. Goodbye Windfields, rest in peace my little hero.

Goodbye Windfields - Rest in Peace Dancer

Friday, November 13, 2009

Looking for help


Thank goodness I didn't get the help I was looking for in this appeal or we would not have made that last visit to Windfields Farm on Nov 14,2009. The top photo is the sign on Nov 14, 2009 while the second photo is what the sign looked like in May, 2006.

I want to make one last trip to Windfields Farm before it is levelled. Either tomorrow or Sunday I would like to head to Oshawa to pay my respects and get one last look at this beautiful piece of Canadiana. Apparently the last of the mares and foals are being auctioned off in Kentucky any day now. I tried all day to contact the farm but no answer. I am trying to find out if the farm is still accessible to the public. The sign used to say visitors welcome Monday - Sunday (1-3:30 pm). The graves will be preserved in a park but the rest of the farm will become another housing development. I have asked the question on a Windfields facebook page as well. If I make the two hour trip it would take quite a bit to prevent me from entering but I would prefer not to break the law. If anyone knows the answer, please comment here. Monday is the 19th anniversary of the little guy's death and I would like to put a rose on the grave of my childhood hero who won the run for the roses 45 years ago. I will keep you posted on this little quest.

The Star (Toronto) article - you can access 17 nice photos in the article as well - Sad days.

My trip(s) to Windfields in 2006.

Let's add another page of races


(click on chart to enlarge)

As I researched this year's classics I had to pass over some big races so I thought I would add another page. There were some big purses in here. There was only 1 of these 36 top 3 finishers who was not a descendant of the Dancer. Even I was surprised how solid the 2009 results were. I honestly thought we could see a slight decline by now. The impact of this extraordinary character is staggering.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let's jump ahead to today - Nov 12, 2009


(click to enlarge charts)

Here are the same two charts to this point in 2009. The earnings here are just approximations again and probably on the low side (and converted to $US). I will always use earnings as a relative form of measurement in this sport, if for no other reason than it emphasizes the impact this one little thoroughbred had on his sport. It also reflects the relative health of the sport which definitely has had its ups and downs over the years.

Of the 25 races I have been following since 2005 there are 3 that have not taken place yet this year. I will update the last 3 races when they run. Of the 66 top 3 finishers in the books all but 2 of them were descendants of Northern Dancer and more and more seem to have mutliple links. We are talking about 14 different countries here on 5 different continents.

Chapter 4


The Dancer's International Impact

(click on charts to enlarge)

(click on charts to enlarge)

Fast forward to Dec 31, 2005

It’s the end of another season of International racing. The “sport of kings” is truly an International sport and Canada’s contribution to the sport’s royalty continues in the bloodline of our little “Dancer”.

Here are the results of some of the Classic Thoroughbred races from every continent on our globe. These races are either rich in history or prize money or both. England’s St Leger stakes is the oldest dating back to 1776. In many cases these events are huge National celebrations attracting hundreds of thousands of people live and millions via television or the Internet.

Ironically, Canada’s Queens Plate (not listed here) could only claim the third place finisher Gold Strike as a descendant of our Canadian hero.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chapter 3



Rewind to September 12, 1970

England’s St Leger Stakes is the oldest of Britain’s Classic races dating back to 1776 and the third jewel in Britain’s Triple Crown. History could be made this day if Northern Dancer’s son, the Canadian bred Nijinsky can win the classic race (it would be his eleventh straight victory in as many starts). There had not been a British Triple Crown winner in 35 years and no horse had ever won the Triple Crown, the Irish Derby and the King George Stakes.

After an undefeated, champion two-year old season, Nijinsky won the first leg of the Triple Crown (the Two Thousand Guineas) easily in the spring of 1970. He faced a tougher challenge in the Epsom Derby, the second leg in the Triple Crown, where many people felt he would have trouble with the longer distance just as his sire did in the Belmont Stakes. Nijinsky won the Derby going away in the fastest time since Mahmoud in 1936. After Epsom and before the St Leger, Nijinsky won the Irish Derby, then raced against older horses for the first time, destroying a quality field in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. The stage was now set at Doncaster, England for the St Leger stakes and the third jewel in British Racing’s Triple Crown.

There had been serious problems leading up to the St Leger. Nijinsky’s legendary trainer Vincent O’Brien would not have raced him if left to his own devices but owner Charles Engelhard wanted him to win the Triple Crown to punctuate one of the greatest racing careers of all time. Nijinsky had suffered a serious attack of ringworm at the end of August that severely hampered his ability to train for the St Leger.

Despite his recent illness, with a little over a furlong left, Nijinsky showed his trademark acceleration to overtake the leaders and win the St Leger by a length over Meadowville. For the first time in his career however, he had nothing left according to his jockey, the great Lester Piggot. Nijinsky lost 31 pounds during the race and was totally spent.

Nijinsky had succeeded in England where his sire had failed in the United States in winning the third jewel of that nation’s triple crown.

Just like his sire, the brilliant Nijinsky was a National hero (albeit a different nation). He would go on to finish second in his last two races. Nijinsky lost by a head in France’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to Sassafrass (the French Classic is one of Europe’s most prestigious races). The ringworm and what some say was a questionable ride from Piggot may have been just too much for the champion to overcome. In his last race, the Champion stakes in Newmarket, England, Nijinsky came back to Britain to an enormous, emotional ovation but his final race would be anti-climatic as he finished second 1-1/2 lengths behind Lorenzaccio.

Nijinsky finished his racing career with an impressive record of eleven wins, two seconds in thirteen lifetime starts (13-11-2-0), earning $677,118. He was Champion Two Year Old of England and Ireland and Champion Horse of Europe as a three year old.

Following Nijinsky’s career from Canada opened my eyes to the history and tradition of European racing. To see a Canadian bred horse dominate the way Nijinsky did in Britain was almost as exciting as watching his father win the Kentucky Derby in 1964. I would follow the careers of many Northern Dancer offspring but Nijinsky was perhaps the most exciting of all from purely a racing performance standpoint.

Nijinsky’s exceptional performance on the track did not mark the end of his influence on racing. Just like his father, Nijinsky went on to be an outstanding sire, producing multiple Epsom Derby winners, Guineas winners and even a Kentucky derby winner.

From Northern Dancer’s standpoint, the mark Nijinsky made on the International thoroughbred scene raised the profile of his sire to another level. Nijinsky was out of the Dancer’s second crop of foals. People were already paying attention to Northern Dancer as a sire but now that attention was coming from all over the world. Northern Dancer’s stud fees would rise from $10,000 for a live foal in 1965 to $100,000 by 1980 (eventually he would turn the thoroughbred breeding economy upside down with fees of $1,000,000 and no guarantees of a live foal). All this from the little horse no one wanted for $25,000 in 1962.

Nijinsky - Pedigree

Nijinsky - with Vincent O'Brien and Lester Piggott

Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Heartbreak - L'Arc 1970 - Undefeated heading into it - it's still hard to beleive he didn't win it. So many of the videos of Nijinsky's career are not available but this one is still out there.

Before getting back to Chapter 3

I am ready to carry on with Chapter 3 of the book after detouring for the Melbourne and Breeders Cups last week. Before I do I just wanted to point out this little fact. What made Northern Dancer very special in his day as a stallion was the International impact he had and it still separates him from his piers today. Five of last week's twelve winners who were descendants of the Dancer were bred outside North America. I will spend more time on this aspect later but the son from Northern Dancer's second crop who I will discuss in Chapter 3 is probably the most significant reason for the Dancer's overall success as a stallion but more importantly, his International success.

You will see the impact Northern Dancer had on the International scene shortly but it all started with this next character and one of my favorites in the Dancer's legacy. From last week's winners;

Shocking (Aus)
Midday (GB)
Vale of York (Ire)
Goldikova (Ire)
Conduit (Ire)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Breeders Cup 2009 in the books

It was another typical Breeders Cup with 37 of the 42 top three spots represented by descendants of Northern Dancer who took home over 80% of the $25,000,000+ in purse money. There were amazing performances by two mares in Goldikova and Zenyatta, with Zenyatta retaining her perfect record (unfortunately she was one of the five who were not descendants of our Dancer but it didn't stop me from cheering for her).

Let's meet a few more of the great grandkids.

That's Twice Over chasing down Zenyatta in the Classic

Conduit winning the Breeders Cup Turf

Furthest Land winning the Dirt Mile

The brilliant mare Goldikova winning the Mile

Vale of York nosing out his distant cousins in the Juvenile

Dancing in Silks noses out more distant cousins in the Sprint

Gorgeous images from AP/Getty and Yahoos Photo Gallery. Here is the link to the full gallery.