All Signs Point North
The dominance of Northern Dancer in turf pedigrees
Level: Intermediate
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

While Man o’ War and Secretariat are legendary names in American horse racing history, arguably no horse has shaped the sport worldwide more than Northern Dancer.

Winner of 14 of 18 starts including the 1964 Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Queen’s Plate, the diminutive (15.2 hands) Northern Dancer entered stud duty after his Queen’s Plate victory and went on to produce more champion racehorses and prolific sires than any other stallion of the 20th century—on both dirt and turf. What makes this achievement even more extraordinary is the relatively small number of mares that he was bred to each year—over the course of 23 seasons, he produced 635 registered foals, or just fewer than 28 per year. Eighty percent of them actually raced and of those, 80% were winners—and 22.6% stakes winners. No wonder his stud fee in 1981 topped $1 million.

Although he died in 1990, Northern Dancer continues to influence through his descendants, some of which were great turf horses in their own right:

Multiple French G1-winning son Lyphard, sire of back-to-back Grade 1 United Nations turf victor Manila and FR-Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Dancing Brave.

English Triple Crown winning son Nijinsky who sired, in addition to Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Ferdinand, two-time Canadian Turf champion Sky Classic (sire of turf champions Sky Conqueror and Thornfield) as well as Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile winner Royal Academy (sire of Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile champ Val Royal and Aussie multi-Group 1 turfster Bel Espirit). His champion German-bred grandson Lomitas continues to produce outstanding Group 1 winners, including most recently FR-Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victress Danedream.

Son Nureyev who sired back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile victress Miesque, as well as the terrific turf sire Theatrical (sire of Grade 1 turf stakes winners Shakespeare, Winchester, Royal Anthem, Media Puzzle, and Mrs. Lindsay, among many others) and top all-weather sire Unusual Heat.

These are but the tip of the iceberg, though, when it comes to the importance of Northern Dancer’s bloodline in turf pedigrees. What follows is a list of five Northern Dancer sons and their male progeny whose presence in either the sire or damside (or both) should be highly considered (especially when close up) in gauging the potential of a first-time turf runner.

1. Fairy King

While unplaced in his only start, Fairy King produced several top turf sires in Ireland and Australia. His Japanese-raced son Shinko King produced Group 1 New Zealand Derby winner C’est La Guerre and multiple G1-winner Eskimo Queen, while Fairy King’s multiple Group 1-winning son Falbrav (who entered stud in 2004) produced in his first crop Group 1-placed Fravashi.

Still, the best of Fairy King’s offspring is top Australian sire Encosta de Lago, whose progeny include at least 16 individual Group 1 winners such as Sacred Kingdom, Sirmione, Manhattan Rain, Newport, Road to Rock, and Princess Coup. Not many Encosta de Lago progeny have raced in America, but his Man of Illusion did win the 2006 Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs before returning to stud duty in Australia. So, if you see any Encosta de Lago foals running, you better believe they’d be at home on grass.

2. Vice Regent

Another lightly raced son of Northern Dancer, Vice Regent was Canada’s leading sire for 13 years, and among his offspring were 1987 Canadian champion 2-year-old Regal Classic (damsire of this year’s Woodbine Oaks winner Roan Inish) and 1988 Canadian champion 3-year-old Regal Intention.

However, Vice Regent’s most influential son is Deputy Minister, who raced mostly on dirt but who has demonstrated strong turf influence through his sons, particularly when cross-bred to a strong damside turf pedigree. For example, son Touch Gold sired through a Dynaformer mare Grade 2 turf victress Sharp Susan. (Touch Gold’s son Medallist never raced on turf, but is a sire to watch on turf as well as synthetics.) Particularly in Australia, Deputy Minister’s son Dehere (out of the Secretariat mare Sister Dot) has had great turf success with offspring such as Group 1 Golden Slipper victress Belle du Jour, multiple Group 1 winner Defier, and Group 1 Coolmore Classic winner Bollinger (dam of Grade 2 Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire), thus if a son or daughter of Dehere were attempting turf for the first time, I would definitely look twice.

3. Danzig

Retired with knee problems after only three starts, Danzig (who died in 2006) was tremendous in the breeding barn, producing both dirt and turf winners like his sire. Among his turf standouts: Agnes World who won Group 1 turf races in Japan, France and England; back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile winner Lure; and Dayjur, who won three Group 1 turf races in France and England before coming to America and losing the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on dirt in the final strides to Safely Kept.

Through his sons, Danzig’s impact on turf racing world-wide is significant:

His European sprint champion son Anabaa has produced two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile victress Goldikova and Group 1 Hong Kong Cup winner Precision.

His Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile-winning son War Chant (out of the Kris S mare Hollywood Wildcat) has produced some nice turf stakes winners, such as Chamberlain Bridge, Chattahoochee War, War Monger and Brilliant, as well as Sea Chanter, El Roblar, and Ballymore Lady.

The offspring of Grade 1 Oak Tree Turf Championship winner Military includes Grade 1 Secretariat winner Gun Salute, as well as turf stakes winners Turfiste and Beau Dare.

His English Group 1 turf winner Danehill has sired well over 300 stakes winners, including FR-Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victor Dylan Thomas, Grade 1 Canadian International winner Champs Elysees, Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf victress Intercontinental, AUS-Group 1 Cox Plate winner Dane Ripper and AUS-Group 1 Golden Slipper champion Ha Ha.

Just like his grandsire Northern Dancer, Danehill has also become a prolific “sire of sires” himself in Australia, through his prolific sons Elvstroem, Arena, Flying Spur, Danewin, Dansili, Fastnet Rock, Danzero, Catbird, Exceed and Excel, Commands, Nothin Leica Dane, Rock of Gibraltar and Redoute’s Choice.

Even Danzig’s dirt-raced sons have produced tremendous turf runners-which is one reason that so many fans waited in vain to see his son Hard Spun try turf before being retired to stud. Danzig’s primarily dirt-raced son Langfuhr has produced G1 turf winners such as Wando, Jambalaya, Lang Field and Interpatation, as well as turf queens Sabellina and The Niagara Queen.

Additional dirt-running Danzig sons to watch out for in terms of progeny running on grass include:

Partners Hero (sire of turf sprinter Hero’s Reward)

Polish Navy (sire of Grade 1 Secretariat winner Ghazi)

Chief’s Crown (sire of Breeders’ Cup Turf victor Chief Bearhart and multiple English Group 1 winner Grand Lodge)

4. Sadler’s Wells

Out of the Bold Reason mare Fairy Bridge (a half-sister to Northern Dancer son Nureyev), Sadler’s Wells was a champion turf miler in France before being retired to stud duty in 1984 after only 11 starts. Pensioned from stud duty in 2008, Sadler’s Wells has proven to be, like his sire, a tremendous sire of turf sires, including a number of those topping sire lists in Europe and Australia (with prominent Group 1 winners):

Montjeu (sire of Camelot, Nom Du Jeu, Fame and Glory, Hurricane Run)

Barathea (sire of Tobougg, Always First)

Galileo (sire of Soldier of Fortune, Red Rocks, Sixties Icon, Rip Van Winkle)

Dushyantor (sire of Belle Watling, Cefalu)

Scenic (sire of Viewed, Scenic Blast, Blevic, Scenic Shot)

Carnegie (sire of Tuesday Joy, Vision and Power)

And hot young sire High Chaparral, with G1 turf winners Monaco Consul, So You Think, Shoot Out

This side of the Atlantic, Sligo Bay and Perfect Soul are two recent Sadler’s Wells’ sons to stand stud, but the most influential son thus far has been El Prado. He’s thrown dirt sires like Medaglia d’Oro (sire of Rachel Alexandra), but also some promising turfsters like Paddy O’Prado. Now his sons are flourishing at stud, so pay particular attention to such proven turf runners as Kitten’s Joy and Artie Schiller.

5. Storm Bird

Lightly raced Storm Bird was champion 2-year-old in England and Ireland in 1980 on turf, but as a sire has produced some terrific dirt runners, not the least of which was Preakness winner Summer Squall, who subsequently sired Kentucky Derby and Preakness victor Charismatic.

However, his lightly raced (again) son Storm Cat has produced several top Grade 1 turf winners in addition to many quality dirt runners, including Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up Courageous Cat and Eddie Read winner After Market. Also among Storm Cat’s progeny are several dirt winners whose progeny have had graded turf stakes success:

Hennessy (sire of sires Johannesburg, Henny Hughes, and Cactus Ridge, all of whom bear watching as turf sires)

Tale of the Cat (sire of Gio Ponti, as well as a number of turf winners in Australia)

Catienus (sire of G1 turf winners and place-getters Precious Kitten, Cannonball, Talent Search)

Undoubtedly though, Storm Cat’s most prolific producer of turf winners has been Giant’s Causeway, European Horse of the Year in 2000 after winning five straight Group 1 turf races. His Group 1 turf-winning offspring include: Red Giant, My Typhoon, Maid’s Causeway, Ghanaati, Internallyflawless, and Eishin Apollon. However, Giant’s Causeway shouldn’t be considered just a turf sire, as exemplified by the dirt success of Eskendereya, Swift Temper, Carriage Trail and Heatseeker.

Giant’s Causeway has also turned out to be a sire of sires, with his sons Shamardal, Aragorn and First Samurai having begun promising stud careers in recent years.

Further Reading
You Might Also Like
Elsewhere of Interest

Questions? Comments? We're here to help!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *