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.

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