Northern Dancer is one of those rare thoroughbred horses that attained greatness on the race track as well as at stud. The Dancer was nothing short of brilliant as a thoroughbred champion, but at stud, he was simply spectacular. He was one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history, according to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the governing body of thoroughbred racing in the US.
Born in 1950, Northern Dancer was foaled from the seed of champions. His mother, Natalma, was the daughter of Native Dancer, one of the winningest thoroughbred horses ever. Meanwhile, his father, Nearctic, won the Sovereign Award for Horse of the Year in 1954.
Northern Dancer raced for only two years, but left an indelible mark in the minds of everyone who had a chance to witness his exploits at that time. The Dancer was an absolute marvel on the race course, winning 14 of 18 races overall. Amazingly, in the four races where he lost, Northern Dancer finished third or better.
Among his most prestigious accomplishments were victories at the Coronation Futurity Stakes (1963), Summer Stakes (1963), Kentucky Derby (1964), Florida Derby (1964), Blue Grass Stakes (1964), Flamingo Stakes (1964), Queen's Plate (1964), and Preakness Stakes (1964).
Northern Dancer was also honored as the USA's Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and Canada's Horse of the Year in 1964. He was also ranked as number 43 in the "Top 100 U.S. Thoroughbred Champions of the 20th Century" study prepared by The Blood-Horse.
After his final race, Northern Dancer was elected into the Sports Hall of Fame of Canada, the first horse to receive such an honor (followed by Big Ben, the Canadian Equestrian Champion, in 1996). In 1975, he was also elevated into the USA's National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
The Dancer served at stud, first, at Taylor's Windfields Farm in Ontario, and starting in 1969, the Windfields Maryland farm where he stayed until he died in 1990.
According to records, Northern Dancer's influence as a breeder had extended around the world, and his offspring had won major stakes races starting in North America and reaching Europe, Australia and Japan. Official estimates indicate that his offspring had made more money and capture more major races than any other sire. To date, his seed has produced 146 stakes champions, including Fanfreluche, Northernette, El Gran Senor, Minstrel, Shareef Dancer, Secreto and the British Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky II.
Even Northern Dancer's offspring went on to become outstanding sires such as Nureyev, Lyphard, Danzig, Sadler's Wells, and Storm Bird. In 1983, one of his yearlings, Snafi Dancer, was once sold for $10.2 million, a world record.
The dancer is listed as the paternal grandsire of many exceptional stallions, including El Prado, Storm Cat, Danehill, Deputy Minister, and others.
Here's a piece of trivia that truly illustrates the extent of Northern Dancer's influence on thoroughbred racing. At the 2004 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Europe's most prestigious race, the blood of Northern Dancer could be found in the pedigrees of all 18 starters.
As the sire of multiple champions, Northern Dancer was truly unparalleled as a sire of thoroughbred horses and champions.