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

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