Carrying on Native Dancer’s line
Mr. Prospector, grandson of the ‘Gray Ghost’, has become an epochal sire of sires
by John P. Sparkman
A pivotal figure in international pedigrees in the second half of the 20th century has turned out to be the first great racehorse born in that period, the great “Gray Ghost,” Native Dancer. Although generally considered a slightly disappointing sire for much of his life, Native Dancer eventually compiled a highly respectable record as sire of 44 stakes winners (14.4%), including 1963 French and English champion Hula Dancer, 1966 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Kauai King, and 1963 champion two-year-old Raise a Native.
Raise a Native and Native Dancer’s stakes-placed daughter Natalma, though, primarily redeemed Native Dancer’s place in breeding history. Natalma, of course, produced Northern Dancer, the best international classic sire of the second half of the century.
Raise a Native (a 1961 foal out of Raise You, by Case Ace) was rated the champion North American two-year-old male on the Experimental Free Handicap at 126 pounds even though a bowed tendon forced his retirement after only four races of startling brilliance. (Hurry to Market, the champion in the Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Racing Associations polls, was second at 125 pounds, and Northern Dancer weighed in at 123.)
Native Dancer was endowed with the physique of a world’s-strongest-man competitor but unfortunately that imposing structure was perched on upright pasterns. Moreover, the mating with Raise You added the tied-in tendons of Case Ace’s maternal grandsire Ultimus to the conformational mix. Raise a Native’s best offspring were so brilliant, however, that the flaws hardly seemed to matter to breeders.
Three leading sires
Raise a Native sired three leading sires in Alydar, Exclusive Native, and Mr. Prospector, but only Mr. Prospector’s line appears likely to survive very far into the 21st century. Foaled in 1970 from Raise a Native’s sixth crop, Mr. Prospector was the second foal of Gold Digger, one of the best daughters of the great racehorse and influential broodmare sire Nashua.
Top-priced yearling at the 1971 Keeneland July yearling sale on a $220,000 bid by Abraham I. Savin, Mr. Prospector somewhat justified his purchase price by winning 7-of-14 starts, including two stakes victories, and earning $112,171.
That bare race record did not reflect the flashes of brilliance he showed, such as when he set a 1:07 4/5 track record for six furlongs at Gulfstream Park in 1973 that stood unequaled until his great-grandson Artax matched it (in 1:07.89) in the 1999 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).
His career shortened by recurring ankle injuries, Mr. Prospector retired to stud in 1975 at Savin Farm near Ocala and made an immediate impact when his first crop of two-year-olds in 1978 included champion two-year-old filly It’s in the Air. His second, third, and fourth crops were of similar quality and, by the time his first classic son, Conquistador Cielo, romped home in the 1982 Belmont Stakes (G1), Mr. Prospector had been relocated to Claiborne Farm near Paris, Kentucky.
With better mares available to him at Claiborne, Mr. Prospector became the dominant American sire of the 1980s, leading the general sire list in 1987-’88, and the juvenile list in ‘79 and ‘87.
Almost as soon as Mr. Prospector’s early Florida-bred sons began to retire to stud, the son of Raise a Native began to develop a reputation as a sire of sires. Although his first top-caliber son, Hello Gorgeous, flopped badly in Europe, less-talented early sons such as first-crop son Northern Prospect (out of a Northern Dancer mare) and fourth-crop son Distinctive Pro were better sires than their race records would have indicated.
The first son of Mr. Prospector to make a lasting impact on the national stage was 1981 Metropolitan Handicap (G1) winner Fappiano (out of Killaloe, by Dr. Fager). Retired to stud at Tartan Farms near Ocala in 1982, Fappiano emulated his sire by winning freshman sire honors in 1985, when his first-crop son Tasso won an Eclipse Award for champion two-year-old male.
Although he died too young at age 13 in 1990 after siring just nine crops, Fappiano still ranks as Mr. Prospector’s most significant son at stud. His champion Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning son Unbridled has sired two American classic winners in Grindstone and Red Bullet, and Fappiano’s sons Cryptoclearance and Quiet American have sired recent American classic winners in Real Quiet and Victory Gallop, both now at stud in Kentucky. Fappiano was a bigger, somewhat leggier horse than most of Mr. Prospector’s offspring, though rather offset in front, and his best descendants have generally been big horses that stay better than most tail-male descendants of Mr. Prospector.
Three other Florida-conceived sons have also exerted a highly positive influence on the international stage. Conquistador Cielo, 1982 Horse of the Year, followed Mr. Prospector to Claiborne at a then-record syndication value of $36.4-million in 1983 and has established a highly respectable if not sensational record. Conquistador Cielo is the sire of 62 stakes winners (8.1%), 18 of group or graded stakes quality, and his Grade 1-winning son Marquetry sired 1999 champion sprinter Artax. Conquistador Cielo is an exceptionally handsome, correct horse, and he sires a solid, consistent physical type.
Crafty Prospector never won a stakes, but his seven wins in ten starts and a close second in the 1983 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1) in his final start clearly indicated that he was graded-stakes caliber. His racing record earned him a place at stud in Florida, and he made the most of it, soon following his sire to Kentucky.
Crafty Prospector has developed into perhaps Mr. Prospector’s most consistent son at stud, siring stakes winners at a 10% rate year after year. Though Crafty Prospector has sired 3.3% graded stakes winners, only one of them, Devious Course, has managed a Grade 1 win in America. A handsome chestnut with a marvelous shoulder and a right front foot that turns out like his sire, Crafty Prospector passes on relative soundness and toughness, as exemplified by his 82.7% starters and 65.4% winners, both well above the norm for sons of Mr. Prospector.
Miswaki, perhaps Mr. Prospector’s best-bred Florida son other than Fappiano, was a brilliant two-year-old in France before winning a sprint stakes in the United States at three. A small, muscular sprinting type, Miswaki is out of Hopespringseternal, by Buckpasser, and has sired good winners at all distances and on all surfaces, including 1991 Horse of the Year Black Tie Affair (Ire), 1993 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1) winner Urban Sea, and 1990 top Australian two-year-old Umatilla (now a successful sire). Black Tie Affair sired only one really top-class horse, Formal Gold, before his export to Japan, but Formal Gold will get an opportunity to carry on the line at Gainesway Farm.
With the highest-quality broodmares of Claiborne and its clients at his disposal, Mr. Prospector inevitably sired Kentucky-bred sons who surpassed those conceived in Florida. Seeking the Gold and Woodman, who like Miswaki are out of Buckpasser mares, have produced runners of the highest class on both turf and dirt.
Seeking the Gold, bred by Ogden Phipps and out of Con Game, by Buckpasser, more closely resembles Mr. Prospector than most of his sons and has rapidly become his natural successor at Claiborne. Winner of the 1988 Super Derby (G1) and second to Alysheba in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), Seeking the Gold sired 1994 champion three-year-old filly Heavenly Prize in his first crop and champion juvenile filly Flanders in his second, quickly making him one of the most popular commercial sires in the world. More recently, the dominating performances of the late Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) winner Dubai Millennium have obliterated early perceptions that Seeking the Gold was primarily a “filly sire.”
Woodman (out of champion Numbered Account’s full sister Playmate, by Buckpasser) kicked off his stud career in spectacular fashion with 1990 French champion two-year-old Hector Protector, ‘91Preakness (G1) and Belmont (G1) Stakes winner Hansel, and ‘90 English champion two-year-old Mujtahid in his first crop.
That early success attracted much better-and many more-mares to his court, and the ultra-fertile Woodman has become the poster child for the much larger books that are now the norm for popular stallions.
Woodman’s percentages have never been as high as most stallions capable of getting truly top-class runners, but he has sired American classic winner Timber Country and 1996-’97 English champion Bosra Sham, a full sister to Hector Protector, in more recent crops.
Hector Protector, Hansel, and Mujtahid have all had their moments without being consistent sires, and Timber Country, who stands in Dubai, is too young to be evaluated.
Seeking the Gold’s contemporary, 1987 champion two-year-old Forty Niner (a Claiborne-bred out of File, by Tom Rolfe), was marginally the better of the two on the racetrack, defeating Seeking the Gold twice by a nose in the Travers Stakes (G1) and Haskell Invitational Handicap (G1). Retired to Claiborne a year earlier than Seeking the Gold, Forty Niner was leading freshman sire in 1992 and and was third-leading sire by U.S. earnings in 1996.
By that time, however, the exigencies of the modern breeding industry had led to his export to Japan in 1995. Forty Niner never sired anything quite so good as Seeking the Gold’s best, but his son End Sweep garnered leading freshman sire honors in 1998. Bred by Christiana Stables, End Sweep also was exported as owner Harry T. Mangurian Jr. began winding down his Mockingbird Farm breeding operation in Florida.
In the U.S., Forty Niner’s get developed a reputation for temperament, notably the inconsistent 1996 Belmont Stakes winner Editor’s Note and the brilliant Coronado’s Quest, winner of the 1998 Haskell and Travers. A smallish, correct horse with a lot of Tom Rolfe about him, Forty Niner has assured that his line will continue for at least one more generation.
Champion sprinter Gulch (out of graded stakes winner Jameela, by Rambunctious) sired 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch and 1995 English classic winner Harayir, but his percentages are not as high as the best of the Mr. Prospectors. With the success of Point Given this year, Thunder Gulch has become the hottest young sire in the world.
1987 Dwyer Stakes winner Gone West (Secrettame, by Secretariat) produces high percentages of stakes winners and graded stakes winners, headed by Zafonic at the very highest level. Zafonic also made a very fast start to his stud career, with champion Xaar in his first crop, and he is now one of the most popular young stallions in Europe. Gone West is one of Mr. Prospector’s most handsome sons, with a hip more closely resembling his broodmare sire, Secretariat.
Like Miswaki, Seeking the Gold, and Woodman, 1987 Canadian horse of the year Afleet (Polite Lady, by Venetian Jester), is out of a granddaughter of Tom Fool, and he developed a highly respectable record during his brief sojourn in Kentucky. Like Crafty Prospector, Afleet did not sire anything of the highest class but compiled a consistent record as a sire of graded stakes performers before his export to Japan in 1994.
Among Mr. Prospector’s younger sons, English-based Machiavellian (out of Coup de Folie, by Halo) and Lane’s End’s Kingmambo have achieved the highest profile.
Machiavellian, a smallish, muscular horse, was a brilliant two-year-old but was not as dominating over longer distances at three. At stud, however, he has produced top-class winners at all distances from five furlongs to 2 1/2 miles, and his young classic-winning son Vettori has made a very good start at stud in France.
Kingmambo, out of the great racemare Miesque, by Nureyev, won three Group 1 races at one mile in Europe and thus earned a top-class opportunity at stud. Although his percentages are not yet as high as those a top-class sire should achieve, Kingmambo has proved in no uncertain terms his ability to get top-level horses.
French and Japanese champion El Condor Pasa in his first crop and American classic winner and leading 2000 older horse Lemon Drop Kid in his second crop are the best advertisements of his versatility as a sire. A handsome, balanced, workmanlike horse, Kingmambo has become one of the world’s most popular commercial stallions.
Overbrook Farm’s homebred Carson City (out of Blushing Promise, by Blushing Groom [Fr]), was strictly a sprinter, and the vast majority of his offspring show the same tendencies. Still, he sired a Grade 1 winner at nine furlongs in his first crop (Flying Chevron) and appears well on his way to building a consistent career similar to that of Crafty Prospector. A smallish, very compact, muscular horse, Carson City is very well-made and passes on his physique to many of his offspring.
Other than Machiavellian, Mr. Prospector’s sons abroad have not been quite as successful as might have been expected. One reason is that few high-class sons have escaped the grasp of the Northern Hemisphere’s top stud farms, leaving well-bred but generally less-accomplished stallions for the Southern Hemisphere.
Mr. Prospector’s most successful son in Australasia has been Straight Strike, a minor stakes-placed runner out of Bend Not, by Never Bend. Standing at Ra Ora Stud in New Zealand, Straight Strike has built a remarkable stud career with relatively little help from his mates, siring 39 stakes winners, including 18 group winners, headed by Hulastrike.
Mr. Prospector’s English classic-placed son Bellotto (Shelf Talker, by *Tatan) and the well-bred Geiger Counter (Thong, by Nantallah) have each enjoyed some success in Australia. Lode (Grand Luxe, by Sir Ivor) has achieved the most success in Argentina (though now standing in Brazil) with 33 stakes winners, and Fast Gold (Flack Attack, by Ack Ack) has gained prominence in Brazil. Similarly, Placerville (Classy Cathy, by Private Account) and Golden Voyager (La Voyageuse, by Tentam) have sired top horses in India and Chile, respectively.
Several branches of the Mr. Prospector line appear to be well-positioned to carry on into the 21st century. Fappiano has established his own distinct line with a strong classic bent, while Miswaki, Gone West, Gulch, Conquistador Cielo, Woodman, Machiavellian, Seeking the Gold, and Forty Niner appear to have handed on the torch for at least one more generation.
With such young, top-class sons as Distant View and Fusaichi Pegasus going to the breeding shed, it is most likely that more distinct branches will emerge in the future.
Although unsoundness prevented Mr. Prospector from being anything but a sprinter, lines descending from his sons display much more stamina. And, although primarily a sire of milers, Mr. Prospector was capable of siring runners of such transcendent class that all distances were within the abilities of his best.
That is a characteristic worth preserving into the new century.
John P. Sparkman is bloodstock/sales editor of Thoroughbred Times.
A place in history
Canada’s Northern Dancer is the 20th century’s best sire of sires
by John P. Sparkman
In his first crop, foaled in 1966, Northern Dancer sired ten stakes winners from 21 foals, a 47.6% strike rate. Had he maintained that percentage throughout his 22 subsequent crops of foals, Northern Dancer would have been, hands down, the best sire of racehorses in the history of the Thoroughbred breed.
Instead, the great son of Nearctic was about half that good over his entire career, with 146 stakes winners from 645 foals, or 22.6%. That made him the best sire of the second half of the 20th century. Only Bold Ruler and his sire, *Nasrullah, managed similar percentages in that era and, though still powerful, their male lines have been all but overwhelmed over the last 25 years by Northern Dancer’s line.
Foaled on May 27, 1961, at E. P. Taylor’s Windfields Farm near Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, Northern Dancer came from the first crop of Taylor’s Canadian champion Nearctic and was the first foal of the great Canadian breeder’s stakes-placed Native Dancer mare Natalma. The late foaling date occurred because Natalma had chipped a knee while training for the Kentucky Oaks at three in 1960 and was rushed off to the breeding shed to help fill Nearctic’s book.
Northern Dancer was a small but powerful colt with a lively temperament.
Fortunately, he inherited neither his dam’s calf knees nor his sire’s curby hocks. Despite his small stature, he was one of three yearlings priced at $25,000 for Windfields’s annual private, prepriced yearling sale in 1962. The other two sold; luckily for Taylor, Northern Dancer did not.
Northern Dancer made his debut for Windfields’s second-string trainer T. P. Fleming on August 2, 1963, winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race at Fort Erie racetrack by 6 3/4 lengths in 1:06 1/5 under apprentice rider Ron Turcotte. He was beaten four lengths by Ramblin Road in the 6 1/2-furlong Vandal Stakes at the same track two weeks later but then scored a 1 1/4-length victory in the Summer Stakes over one mile on turf in heavy going.
Transferred to Luro
That victory earned him a promotion to Windfields’s first-string trainer, Horatio Luro, at Woodbine racetrack, but he ran second to Grand Garcon while conceding that colt 11 pounds in the Cup and Saucer Stakes in his first start for Luro.
Under the Racing Hall of Fame trainer’s tutelage, Northern Dancer closed his two-year-old season with a five-race win streak, including the Coronation Futurity and Carleton Stakes in Canada. He sealed his reputation as the best juvenile in Canada with two wins at Aqueduct, first trouncing Futurity Stakes winner Bupers by eight lengths in a one-mile allowance race and then beating Lord Date by two lengths in the Remsen Stakes.
Northern Dancer was rated joint-sixth at 123 pounds (three below champion Raise a Native, who already had been retired to stud) on the Experimental Free Handicap, and his potential as a classic colt was obvious.
Half fit, he was beaten in his first start at three in 1964 and then won six consecutive races-an allowance, the Flamingo Stakes, Florida Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes. Each of those victories was characterized by his ability to sit just off the pace at a high cruising speed, produce a sharp burst of acceleration, and then persevere gamely to the wire.
In the Kentucky Derby, 3.40-to-1 Northern Dancer showed the advantage of being small and shifty, staying clear of trouble on the final turn while the larger, longer-striding, 7-to-5 favorite Hill Rise required more than one furlong to regain his momentum after being stopped briefly. The little Nearctic colt won by a neck over Hill Rise in a track record 2:00.
Northern Dancer won the Preakness by daylight, prevailing by 2 1/4 lengths over The Scoundrel, who had finished third in the Derby, with Hill Rise taking third. Northern Dancer’s winning streak ended in the Belmont Stakes, in which he finished third, sixth lengths behind winner Quadrangle. The colt strained a tendon slightly in the race, but he may not have stayed the Belmont’s 1 1/2 miles in any event. Luro held him together for one more race, winning the Queen’s Plate by 7 1/2 lengths, but the tendon went soon afterward and ended Northern Dancer’s racing career.
Champion three-year-old of 1964 and Horse of the Year in Canada, Northern Dancer retired to stud with a record of 14 wins in 18 starts, two seconds and two thirds, with earnings of $580,647. He stood his first season in 1965 at Windfields in Ontario for a $10,000 fee. While that was a high fee for Canada, few expected the chunky little bay to have much impact as a sire outside his native land.
That first crop included 1968 Canadian champion juvenile and Horse of the Year Viceregal (out of Victoria Regina, by *Menetrier), dual Canadian champion handicap horse Dance Act (*Queen’s Statute, by Le Lavandou), top-class grass stayer One for All (Quill, by *Princequillo), 1971 Widener Handicap winner True North (Hill Rose, by Rosemont), and 1969 Canadian Oaks winner Cool Mood (Happy Mood, by *Mahmoud).
Therefore, when Irish trainer Vincent O’Brien went to the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society’s yearling sale in 1968 to buy a Windfields-bred *Ribot colt for Charles Engelhard, he knew that the sire of a striking bay colt out of Canadian Oaks winner Flaming Page, by Bull Page, could sire runners.
O’Brien did not like that *Ribot colt, Northern Monarch, but he loved the Northern Dancer colt out of Flaming Page and bought him for $84,000. That colt was Nijinksy II, only winner of the English Triple Crown (in 1970) in the last 65 years. The sale of Nijinksy II and his subsequent achievements was the turning point of Northern Dancer’s stud career. Nijinsky II made him leading sire in England in 1970, and when O’Brien joined in partnership with Robert Sangster and John Magnier after Engelhard’s death, it was the progeny of Northern Dancer that the trio pursued most heartily.
The O’Brien, Sangster, Magnier team bought (or bred) and raced Northern Dancer’s top-class sons The Minstrel (Fleur, by Victoria Park), Be My Guest (What a Treat, by *Tudor Minstrel), El Gran Senor (Sex Appeal, by Buckpasser), Storm Bird (South Ocean, by New Providence), Try My Best (Sex Appeal, by Buckpasser), and Sadler’s Wells (Fairy Bridge, by Bold Reason).
Nijinsky II’s success also made Northern Dancer too big for Canada. In 1969, he was moved to Windfields’s Maryland branch, where he remained until his death in 1990; he had been pensioned in 1987. Northern Dancer’s progeny fueled the bloodstock boom of the 1980s, and no-guarantee seasons changed hands for $1-million during that period. Northern Dancer led the U.S. sire list in 1971 and the English list in ‘70, ‘77, ‘83, and ‘84.
Nijinsky II was Northern Dancer’s first-and best-international champion.
Winner of the first 11 of his 13 starts, the big, powerful, sickle-hocked Nijinsky II bore a strong physical resemblance to the Bull Lea-line ancestors of his dam but displayed every bit of Northern Dancer’s fire and electricity.
Standing at Claiborne Farm, he was almost as successful as his sire, leading the English sire list in 1986.
Nijinsky II was never as prominent on the American list, but he led the American broodmare sire list in 1993-’94. Not long after his death in 1992, he surpassed his sire’s record for stakes winners, with a career total of 155 stakes winners from 862 foals (18%).
That number included 11 champions and 100 group or graded winners, including 1987 Horse of the Year Ferdinand, 1983 French champion Caerleon, dual English champion Ile de Bourbon, undefeated 1982 Epsom Derby (Eng-G1) winner Golden Fleece, undefeated 1995 Epsom Derby winner Lammtarra, and 1986 Epsom Derby winner Shahrastani.
Ferdinand failed at stud, but Caerleon led the English sire list in 1988 and ‘91. Nijinsky II’s son Green Dancer led the French list in 1991, and both still have top-class sons at stud. Ile de Bourbon sired only one significant horse, 1988 Epsom Derby winner Kahyasi, whose 27 stakes winners include classic winners Zainta and Vereva.
Nijinsky II was by no means as good a sire of sires as Northern Dancer, but with Kahyasi, Green Tune, Lammtarra (in Japan), Hernando (Fr), and numerous other sons and grandsons at stud, his branch of Northern Dancer is still very much alive.
Although Northern Dancer was to become the greatest sire of sires of the century, his two best first-crop sons were only modestly successful. The unsound Viceregal sired two fast German horses, Esclavo and Solarstern, after his export. One for All did better, siring 30 stakes winners, including The Very One, but his tendency to sire grass-loving stayers did not endear him to American breeders.
Viceregal’s full brother, Vice Regent, from the same second crop as Nijinsky II, was an entirely different type than his elegant, refined brother and not as good a racehorse.
He became an extraordinary sire in Canada, however, leading the domestic sire list. His best offspring, 1981 Canadian Horse of the Year and U.S. champion two-year-old male Deputy Minister, led the U.S. general sire list in 1997 and ‘98. Deputy Minister’s early sons Silver Deputy and Salt Lake have done well at stud, while his higher-class sons Awesome Again and Touch Gold are too young to evaluate.
The stud success of the nonstakes winner Vice Regent and of the Dancer’s good but far from outstanding runners Northern Jove (Junonia, by Sun Again) and Northfields (Little Hut, by Occupy) from his third crop signaled breeders that almost any son of Northern Dancer was worth a shot at stud. Northern Jove sired 1978 champion two-year-old filly Candy Eclair, and his high-class son Equalize led the Argentine sire list in 1998.
Northfields was a better racehorse than Northern Jove, winning the Louisiana Derby, and the half brother to outstanding Irish sire Habitat won a place at stud in Ireland. He took every advantage, siring 50 stakes winners, but his primary influence has been as an outstanding broodmare sire.
Lyphard in fourth crop
Northern Dancer’s fourth-crop son Lyphard (Goofed, by *Court Martial) was even smaller than his sire and possessed very similar abilities. Trained by Alec Head, Lyphard was one of the best two-year-olds in France in 1971 and won the Prix de la Foret and Prix Jacques le Marois (both now Group 1s) at three.
Lyphard was one of the best sires of the 1970s and ‘80s, leading the French sire list in 1978 and ‘79 and the U.S. list in 1986.
Lyphard’s best European-raced son, Dancing Brave, was an inconsistent stallion, but he sired 1993 Epsom Derby winner Commander in Chief, now a promising young stallion in Japan. Lyphard’s best American son, Manila, suffered from the prejudice against American grass horses, and Manila’s best son Bien Bien is now in England.
Lyphard sired 115 stakes winners from 842 foals (13.7%), and his line also persists regionally in South Africa, Argentina, and Brazil. Lyphard is also responsible for the most genetically distant leading sire from the Northern Dancer line. His great-grandson Linamix (by Mendez, by Bellypha [Ire], by Lyphard) led the French sire list in 1998.
Another diminutive son, the white-faced, inbred (3x2 to Nearctic’s dam, *Lady Angela) Northern Taste (Lady Victoria, by Victoria Park), also won the Prix de la Foret (Fr-G1) in 1974 and led the Japanese sire list 11 times.
Be My Guest and The Minstrel were both purchased as yearlings in 1975 by O’Brien and partners. Though The Minstrel, a three-quarter brother to Nijinsky II, was clearly the better of the two on the racecourse, winning the Epsom and Irish Derbys and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-G1) in 1977, it was Be My Guest who became the foundation rock of Coolmore Stud. Leading sire in England when his first-crop son Assert (Ire) was a three-year-old in 1984, Be My Guest has intermittently produced top-level horses throughout a long career, but his line does not appear very likely to persist.
The Minstrel’s best son, L’Emigrant, failed at stud, but the less-talented Palace Music sired two-time Horse of the Year Cigar, as well as Australian Group 1 winner Naturalism. Cigar’s infertility probably sounded the death knell for The Minstrel’s line.
American-raced Topsider, another member of the 1974 crop, was much less accomplished, winning only one sprint stakes, but he was a very effective stallion at Claiborne, siring 63 stakes winners. Topsider’s male line, however, is unlikely to persist.
The beautifully bred Sovereign Dancer (Bold Princess, by Bold Ruler) was a modest racehorse, placing in stakes, but he was far more effective as a stallion. Sire of Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Gate Dancer while in Florida, Sovereign Dancer sired 56 stakes winners from 592 foals (9.2%).
Sovereign Dancer’s French-trained son Priolo is sire of French champion Sendawar, who was recently retired to stud, while Sovereign Dancer’s second Preakness winner, Louis Quatorze, is at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.
The first of Northern Dancer’s two top-class sons out of the Buckpasser mare Sex Appeal, Try My Best, was the best two-year-old in England and Ireland in 1977 but did not train on at three. Markedly back at the knee, he was an inconsistent stallion who got one outstanding son in Last Tycoon (Ire).
Champion sprinter in Europe and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in 1986, Last Tycoon has led something of a checkered career as a stallion, standing in Ireland, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand at one time or another.
Leading sire in Australia in 1994, Last Tycoon has not yet secured his male line.
Fabulous Dancer (Last of the Line, by The Axe II) never reached the top of the tree as a racehorse but led the French sire list in 1992. His fillies were rather better than his colts. Northern Baby (Two Rings, by Round Table) was a better racehorse, winning the 1979 Champion Stakes (Eng-G1), but was not as effective at stud. Neither line is likely to survive.
In many ways it was the incredible success of Danzig (Pas de Nom, by Admiral’s Voyage) that put the seal on Northern Dancer’s reputation as a sire of sires. Although undefeated in three sprints at two and three, Danzig never contested a stakes race and got his opportunity at Claiborne Farm largely through the connection of his trainer, Woody Stephens, to the Hancock family.
Danzig sired 1984 juvenile champion Chief’s Crown and Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (G1) second Stephan’s Odyssey in his first crop, had Belmont winner Danzig Connection in his second crop, and never looked back. His three consecutive sire championships in 1991-’93 constituted the longest run of dominance in the U.S. since Bold Ruler’s seven consecutive years of leadership in the 1960s.
Danzig also appears to be the best sire of sires among Northern Dancer’s sons. His Danehill has led the Australian list five times and is highly respected in the Northern Hemisphere as well. Danzig’s sons Belong to Me, Boundary, Chief’s Crown, Green Desert, Pine Bluff, Polish Precedent, and others have all proved they can sire top-class runners. Also making clear that Danzig’s branch is here to stay are his grandsons Grand Lodge, sire of Sinndar; Desert Sun, sire of Sunline; and Danehill’s son Danzero in Australia.
If Danzig demonstrated that Northern Dancer’s sons did not have to be racecourse champions to succeed, Nureyev (Special, by *Forli) came from the other end of the expectation spectrum. The top-priced yearling of his year, Nureyev finished first in his three starts (like Danzig), but all were stakes events, culminating in the 1980 Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1). Though he lost that race in the stewards’ room and never ran again because of a wind infirmity, Nureyev proved his brilliance, and after one year at stud in France was reimported to stand at Walmac International, where he stood his entire career until his death in November 2001.
Theatrical (Ire), his best son from that one French-sired crop, remains the best son of Nureyev at stud to date, but his best son, 1997 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1) winner Peintre Celebre, is too young to evaluate. Top miler Soviet Star, Robin des Bois, Polar Falcon, and Fadeyev have all had their moments.
A high-priced yearling like Nureyev, Storm Bird earned champion two-year-old honors in England and Ireland in 1980 but was mysteriously attacked by a stable hand before he could run at three and never regained his form. A good sire of racehorses, Storm Bird has become an even more important sire of sires, numbering 1999-2000 leading sire Storm Cat and successful sires Bluebird and Summer Squall among his best runners.
Storm Cat is the world’s number-one commercial sire, and his sons now are all the rage among breeders. Forest Wildcat’s success this year promises much for other sons of Storm Cat.
Dixieland Band (Mississippi Mud, by Delta Judge) was several pounds below top class as a racehorse, counting the 1984 Massachusetts Handicap (G2) as his best win, but he has exceeded expectations as a stallion. Sire of 86 stakes winners from 847 foals (10.2%), he rarely sires anything really top class but delivers graded winners with great consistency.
El Gran Senor ranks second only to Nijinsky II as a racehorse among Northern Dancer’s sons. Champion two- and three-year-old in England and Ireland, El Gran Senor’s stud career was compromised by substandard fertility. Still, he sired a very high percentage of stakes winners (13.2%) even though breeders were understandably reluctant to send him their best mares. None of his good sons have shown much indication of carrying on his line.
El Gran Senor’s stablemate and contemporary, Sadler’s Wells (Fairy Bridge, by Bold Reason), was not quite so brilliant, but he has become Northern Dancer’s most dominant son at stud. Sire of a long succession of top-class milers and middle-distance horses, Sadler’s Wells has led the English sire list a modern record 11 times. The Coolmore-based stallion has also led the French list four times. Sadler’s Wells’s percentages are not quite as high as those of Nijinsky II, Danzig, or Nureyev, but they are remarkable considering the large books of mares he serves annually.
Sadler’s Wells’s sons Fort Wood, In the Wings (GB), Saddlers’ Hall (Ire), and Scenic (Ire) have all sired top-class sons, securing his branch of Northern Dancer well into the 21st century.
Sadler’s Wells’s once-raced full brother Fairy King is a different physical type, and the racing character of his offspring is quite different from that of Sadler’s Wells’s progeny. Fairy King is much more likely to sire specialist milers and less likely to sire 1 1/2-mile winners than his brother, but, because of his brief racing career, he had to make his own way early in his stud career.
He did so brilliantly with fast two-year-olds in his first two crops. With better mares, the number of middle-distance runners increased, and Fairy King led the French sire list in 1996, the year his best son Helissio won the Arc.
Fairy King’s Irish classic winner Turtle Island has already sired 1999 Two Thousand Guineas winner Island Sands, and his modest son Bartok (Ire) has shown promise in California.
Unfuwain (Height of Fashion [Fr], by Bustino) was Northern Dancer’s last good son and, though he never reached the heights of his half brother Nashwan, he has proven to be a better sire. Unfuwain has sired good winners over all distances, and his champion son Alhaarth has sired stakes winners in his first crop of runners in 2001.
A place in history
Few, if any, stallions have ever sired as many good stallion sons as has Northern Dancer. His male-line ancestor Phalaris sired five top stallions in Pharos, Fairway, *Pharamond II, *Sickle, and Colorado. Phalaris’s grandson and Northern Dancer’s grandsire, Nearco, sired *Nasrullah, *Royal Charger, Dante, *Amerigo, and Nearctic.
*Nasrullah, probably the next best sire of sires of the century, got Bold Ruler, Never Bend, Red God, Grey Sovereign, Never Say Die, and Nashua.
Northern Dancer can count at least ten sons as truly outstanding sires: Be My Guest, Danzig, El Gran Senor, Fairy King, Lyphard, Nijinsky II, Northern Taste, Nureyev, Sadler’s Wells, and Vice Regent.
His place in history is secure.
John P. Sparkman is bloodstock/sales editor of Thoroughbred Times.
Slew of sons
Great racehorse and sire Seattle Slew has successfully handed on his male line
by John P. Sparkman
Just as great racehorses do not always make great sires, great sires do not always make great sires of sires. For every *Nasrullah or Northern Dancer, there is a Bull Lea or an Alydar.
Seattle Slew, a son of Bold Reasoning out of My Charmer, by Poker, surely qualifies as a great racehorse. Thoroughbred racing’s only unbeaten Triple Crown winner, he lost that undefeated distinction in his next start but suffered only two more defeats in 17 starts, and retired to stud the acknowledged champion of his generation. Seattle Slew also can claim to be, at worst, the second-best horse of American racing’s most gilded age, the 1970s. Although Secretariat retired before the son of Bold Reasoning was born, Seattle Slew twice defeated Affirmed, who, in turn, defeated Spectacular Bid, the other male candidates for that distinction.
Seattle Slew has also been unquestionably a great sire, though he does have his weaknesses. Leading sire in 1984, he has continued to produce top-class runners throughout his long career.
Table 1 highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of Seattle Slew as a stallion. The table compares Seattle Slew’s career statistical record to the average achievements of the top 1% of stallions for the decade of 1985-’94, a period contemporaneous with the bulk of his stud career. Seattle Slew is clearly superior to the average top stallion in producing stakes winners and especially group/graded winners, but his numbers fall far below the average elite stallion in every measure that is an indicator of basic soundness. As breeders have long recognized, if you get a good Seattle Slew, it can be very, very good, but he sires more than his share of questionable individuals as well.
His accomplishments to date as a sire of sires lie somewhere between the Northern Dancers and the Bull Leas. Seattle Slew has successfully handed on his male line to such star sire sons as A.P. Indy, Capote, and General Meeting without achieving as much distinction in that sphere as have his near contemporaries and competitors Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector.
Born in Kentucky in 1974 and bred by Covington, Kentucky, restaurateur Ben W. Castleman, Seattle Slew was consigned to the second annual Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale of selected yearlings in 1975. New York racetrack veterinarian Jim Hill purchased him for $17,500 on behalf of the young Seattle couple Karen and Mickey Taylor, with Hill and his wife, Sally, as partners.
The Hills and Taylors sent their big, heavy-boned colt to young trainer Billy Turner, whose wife, Paula, broke the colt at Middleburg Training Center in Virginia. Seattle Slew at first earned the nickname “Baby Huey” after the cartoon character because he was so playful and clumsy, but by the time he left Middleburg for Belmont Park, Paula Turner knew he had exceptional talent.
Billy Turner gave the big colt plenty of time, and he did not make his debut until September 20, 1976, at Belmont. He won that six-furlong maiden in a canter by five lengths, and followed that up with a 3 1/2-length romp in a seven-furlong allowance.
Seattle Slew burst upon the national consciousness in his final start at two, romping to a 9 3/4-length victory in the Champagne Stakes (G1), earning the juvenile championship by running one mile in a stakes record 1:34 2/5.
Slew continued unbeaten and unchallenged at three, demolishing his fields by four lengths and 3 1/4 lengths in the Flamingo Stakes (G1) and the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1), respectively. His free-running style, high mettle, and pedigree made many pundits doubt Seattle Slew’s ability to stay the ten furlongs of the Kentucky Derby (G1), but he blasted away those insinuations by bulling his way to a 1 3/4-length win.
Seattle Slew completed his Triple Crown with easy victories in the Preakness (G1) and Belmont (G1) Stakes, but his owners insisted on running him in the Swaps Stakes (G1) three weeks later, despite the fact that Turner had backed off on his training after the Belmont. They paid for their hubris with Seattle Slew’s first defeat, a bad fourth behind J. O. Tobin. Slew did not race again that year but had done enough to earn Horse of the Year honors.
Seattle Slew almost died that winter from Colitis-X, but when he recovered, he was clearly as good as ever. He defeated Affirmed in the Marlboro Cup Handicap (G1) and was clearly a short horse when beaten by a neck by champion sprinter Dr. Patches in the Paterson Handicap. Seattle Slew also lost the 1 1/2-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) in perhaps his greatest performance. After dueling Affirmed into defeat with six furlongs in 1:09 2/5 and one mile in 1:35 2/5 in sloppy going, he was passed by the dour stayer Exceller. But Seattle Slew’s tigerish spirit would not give up. He fought back from almost one length down to be beaten by only a nose.
Seattle Slew retired to stud at Spendthrift Farm near Lexington in 1979 with a record of 14 wins, two narrow seconds, and a fourth in 17 starts, three championships, earnings of $1,208,726, and a syndication value of $14-million. In 1987, he was transferred to Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Kentucky.
As Table 1 shows, the now 27-year-old stallion has achieved greatness as a stallion as well. Although Slew is not as consistent a sire as some, his percentage of horses of the highest class-group and graded stakes winners-has lifted his stud career above that of almost all of his contemporaries.
Although Seattle Slew early on developed a reputation for siring a relatively high percentage of gawky, overgrown, coarse individuals, he sired two champions in his very first crop and has continued to produce championship-quality individuals throughout his career.
The ill-starred filly Landaluce (out of Strip Poker, by Bold Bidder) was, of course, the first horse to make it obvious that Seattle Slew would be an important sire. That same crop included his first champion son, Slew o’ Gold (out of Alluvial, by Buckpasser). Slew o’ Gold made a great start at stud, with champion Golden Opinion, and Grade 1 winners Awe Inspiring and Gorgeous in his first crop, and classic-placed Thirty Six Red in his second. He has not followed up in later crops, however, and though he occasionally sires a top-class runner, his offspring have a justified reputation for soundness problems.
Slew o’ Gold’s best son, Awe Inspiring, has been far less successful at stud in Japan than his name, his outstanding pedigree, and excellent race record promised. Awe Inspiring’s death at age seven in 1993 did not prove much of a loss to Japanese breeders since he failed to sire a stakes winner from 158 foals.
Second-best son of Seattle Slew’s first crop was Slewpy (Rare Bouquet, by Prince John), a Grade 1 winner at two and three despite marked inconsistency as a racehorse. Slewpy has also been an inconsistent sire, getting 26 stakes winners, a 5% strike rate. Slewpy’s best son, Thirty Slews, was gelded, and his second-best, Mr. Nickerson, died on the racetrack. Slerp, his only significant son to stand at stud, has failed in California.
Best sire from Seattle Slew’s first crop, however, was probably Slewacide, who made extraordinary use of the poor opportunity available to him in Oklahoma.
Bred on the same cross as Slew o’ Gold (out of Evasive, by Buckpasser), Slewacide raced only once, finishing third, but he has sired 36 stakes winners (6.4%), including Grade 1 winners Clever Trevor and Slew of Damascus, as well as current graded winner Mr Ross. Unfortunately, all four of Slewacide’s graded stakes-winning sons are geldings, putting an immediate halt to what could have been a highly successful branch of the Seattle Slew male line.
Unlucky sire of sires
In truth, Seattle Slew’s career as a sire of sires (Table 2) has been dogged by persistent bad luck. His best second-crop son (and perhaps his best son of all), Swale (Tuerta, by *Forli), died two weeks after adding a win in the 1984 Belmont Stakes to his Kentucky Derby victory. Second-best of that crop, Seattle Song (Incantation, by Prince Blessed), died relatively young, and his best son, Group 1 winner Cudas, died at four.
Seattle Song was quite a good sire of grass horses, an unusual affinity for a son of Seattle Slew. His fillies were generally better than his colts, and his best remaining son, Whadjathink, has not carried on the line in Illinois.
Like most other outstanding sires of sires, Seattle Slew has produced sons that do not have to be successful racehorses to succeed as stallions, at least on a regional basis. Slewacide was a national talent in a regional market, and several other sons of Seattle Slew have been big successes on a regional basis while occasionally throwing a nationally prominent runner.
Slewdledo, his unraced son out of graded winner M’lle. Cyanne, by Cyane, from his second crop, has been one of the best sires in Washington for years, siring 21 stakes winners (6.7%), including graded winners Snipledo and King Slewie.
The beautifully bred Air de France (Allez France, by *Sea-Bird) raced only twice, winning once, but has sired Group 1-winning geldings Air Seattle and Bomber Bill. Each of Air de France’s six group-winning sons is a gelding, putting an immediate end to his branch of the line.
Two of Seattle Slew’s lesser sons, Slew Prince (Princess Arjumand, by *Prince Taj) and Slewbop (Full Card, by Damascus), have led the sires list in Venezuela in the 1990s. Slew Prince was unraced, but Slewbop had enough talent to run second in the 1988 California Derby (G2).
Synastry (Municipal Bond, by Nashua) placed in four stakes and began his stud career in the nether reaches of Idaho. He has sired 23 stakes winners and is now standing in California.
Avenue of Flags (Beautiful Glass, by Pass the Glass) also only placed in stakes but has scored big in California, with five graded winners, including three Grade 2 winners among his 16 stakes winners.
Slew’s good third-crop son, Khozaam (Par Excellance, by L’Enjoleur), has also enjoyed intermittent success in New Zealand, siring nine stakes winners, including group winners Seattle Gem, Narousa, and Khopromise. Unfortunately, all of his best sons have been geldings.
Septieme Ciel (Maximova [Fr], by Green Dancer) won at the top level in both France and the United States and has sired two Grade/Group 1 winners while never attracting much patronage despite his good record. Septieme Ciel is now at stud in France.
The first son of Seattle Slew to gain commercial success was 1986 champion two-year-old Capote (Too Bald, by Bald Eagle). Heavily inbred to *Nasrullah (5x5x3x4), Capote hit the commercial bull’s-eye siring fast precocious two-year-olds in his first few crops. After a brief downturn, his stock rose again after his first foals sired at Three Chimneys arrived. His best son, Boston Harbor, earned champion juvenile honors in 1996 but was recently exported to Japan though his first two-year-olds only began racing this year.
As shown in Table 3, Capote has sired more stakes winners to date, 39 (6.4%), than any other son of Seattle Slew. His good sons Basim and Agincourt have scored early success at stud in Brazil and Australia, respectively, and his young son Matty G has sired the good 2001 two-year-old Mayakovsky in his first crop. Capote may yet establish his own branch of the Seattle Slew line.
Seattle Slew’s good racing sons Slew City Slew (Weber City Miss, by Berkley Prince) and General Meeting (Alydar’s Promise, by Alydar) have both proven to be good sires. General Meeting’s best son to date, the top-class General Challenge, is a gelding, but there should be more good ones to come now that it is clear General Meeting is a world-class stallion.
A.P. Indy, Seattle Slew’s most successful son on the racecourse, is also, without doubt, his most successful son at stud. The half brother to 1990 Preakness winner Summer Squall out of Weekend Surprise, by Secretariat, topped the 1990 Keeneland July yearling sale at $2.9-million but has proved his worth many times over. Winner of the Hollywood Futurity (G1) at two, A.P. Indy overcame a foot injury at three to win the Belmont and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) to clinch 1992 Horse of the Year honors.
Retired to his breeder’s Lane’s End near Versailles, Kentucky, A.P. Indy has met the high expectations held for him, siring 33 stakes winners to date (9.1%). Twenty-five of those, a remarkably high ratio, are group or graded winners, including probable 2001 champion two-year-old filly Tempera and Grade 1-winning colts Golden Missile, Aptitude, Stephen Got Even, and A P Valentine, all of whom will be at stud in Kentucky in 2002.
A.P. Indy has already indicated he will succeed in handing on the Seattle Slew male line to the next generation, since his first good son, Pulpit, has already sired graded stakes winner Essence of Dubai in his first crop of juveniles.
A.P. Indy is a fair copy of Seattle Slew in terms of the type of horses he sires. His offspring tend to be either very good, as indicated by his high percentage of group/graded winners, or unsound. His percentages of starters and winners are very similar to his sire’s.
Seattle Slew has clearly succeeded in rescuing the male line of Bold Ruler for at least another generation. Whether A.P. Indy, Capote, General Meeting, and other such untested sons as the talented Event of the Year will manage to extend it into the 21st century is less clear at this point. Still, it should be remembered that in 1974, when Seattle Slew was born, the Bold Ruler male line appeared to be one of the most powerful on the planet with leading sire sons What a Pleasure, Raja Baba, and Bold Bidder, and a pretty good racehorse named Secretariat yet to be heard from as a sire.
Since then, things have changed dramatically. Seattle Slew, his sons, and grandsons are now the most likely conduit into the future of the most successful American sire of runners of the 20th century.