Before you wager on the Northern Dancer Breeder’s Cup Stakes Sunday at Woodbine you need to know a little bit about, probably, the greatest TB sire in modern history. Yes, he was little. Some say 14.2, some say a shade over 15 hands. I saw him in his retirement at Windfields Farm and I’m here to tell you, I would be surprised if he measured 15 hands! But what he didn’t have in size, he more than made up for on the race track and even more importantly, in the breeding shed. The great Northern Dancer was a rare, sire of sires. A winner of two jewels of the American Triple Crown, this Canadian- bred sired 146 stakes winners, and a remarkable 26 of them were Champions world-wide. Foaled in 1961, by Nearctic, (Nearco) out of Natalma, (Native Dancer), he was bred by Canadian business tycoon and philanthropist, Edward P Taylor. Northern Dancer was so small, that when offered for sale as a yearling, no one wanted him. As a result, he was sent to one of Taylor’s trainers. And not only was he small, but he was unruly and rambunctious, unless he was around Mr. Taylor’s wife, Winifred. It is said that he was one of her favorites, even as an unraced colt; she gave him lots of attention and he was calm and quiet when around her. However, there were thoughts of gelding the little man - good thing they didn’t.
Here are some horses we would not have had, if it wasn’t for the great Northern Dancer. He was the sire of so many important stallions including Danzig, Lyphard, Secreto, The Minstrel, Nijinsky II, Storm Bird, Vice Regent, Nureyev and Sadler’s Wells. And as a result, we wouldn’t have had their sons, Danehill, Lure, Belong to Me, Honor Grades, Pine Bluff. Dancing Brave, Shadeed, Royal Academy, Green Dancer, Barathea, El Prado, Storm Cat, Summer Squall, Deputy Minister, Theatrical, and the list goes on and on …
Northern Dancer’s stud fee started out at $25,000, and ended up at over 1 million, with no guarantee. In the early 80’s, his yearlings routinely brought over a million dollars.
The Northern Dancer Breeder’s Cup Stakes is a mile and a half event on the E.P Taylor Turf Course on Sunday. It is a Grade I, worth $750,000, for 3 year olds and up, and the results might have some, but not much, impact for the Breeder’s Cup 1 &1/2 Turf in November. I say this because the European contingent is always very strong at this distance, and all others are up against it. Many of Europe’s top turf horses did not have this race on their schedule, and either will go to the Arc in 2 weeks, or just train on to the Cup. However, it is a “Win and You’re In”, so the winner will have an automatic berth into the BC Turf. Nominations closed with 26 entries, with 2 supplemental entries. Several of those nominated chose to run in last week’s shorter (1 & 3/8’s) Bowling Green at Belmont. All in all, it is not a strong field for a Grade I with such a big purse.
A little background in last year’s race… Marsh Side won the race but was D’Q’d for interference with the horses that finished 3rd and 4th. This gave the win to Just as Well, the second place finisher, and Marsh Side was placed 4th. Then, this past June, the decision was reversed and Marsh Side, on paper, was awarded the win. BUT, the purse money has yet to be distributed, because Jonathan Sheppard, (trainer of Just as Well) is contesting it.
Oh sorry, I have to take this hypothetical phone call from the Woodbine Stewards…
….Yes… thanks for returning my call…I was just wondering where my money was ?....Yes, the win-place bet on Marsh Side from last year’s Northern Dancer, and the exacta bet, Marsh Side and Just as Well?.... Yes, well, I know he was DQ’d, but then he was re-instated, and awarded the win…. So I thought now, you could give me my winnings? Oh, you know, let’s make this easy… Just give my winnings to any one of the great equine charities, like Old Friends, or the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund…how’s that sound? Does that work for you? Because, I’d be fine with that…. OK, then ...Thanks very much….
Again, sorry for the interruption….
As the Handicapper chosen to handicap this race for the Handicapper’s Corner at ThoroFan, I have commented on all the contenders, at their website. Good luck with your wagers on all the good turf racing this weekend!