01/03/2006 1:00AM

Danzig euthanized

Dell Hancock Photography
Danzig, who died at 29, is the sire of 21 champions, including the English champion Danehill.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Danzig, the highly influential American sire who was pensioned after the 2004 breeding season, was euthanized on Tuesday morning at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., due to the infirmities of old age, according to officials at Claiborne, Danzig's home since entering stud in 1981. Danzig turned 29 on Jan. 1.

Danzig is the sire of 21 champions worldwide from 22 crops.

At the time of his death, Danzig led all North American-based sires in number of stakes winners and percentage of stakes winners from foals, but his influence continues to stretch far beyond the American mainland. His sons and daughters were highly prized at auction by European and Middle Eastern buyers, and his most successful son at stud, the globally influential Danehill, stood at Coolmore Stud in Ireland after a European racing career that included an English championship.

Danzig has sired 188 stakes winners and 107 graded stakes winners, numbers that could increase as his final crops reach racing age. His current percentage of stakes winners from foals is 18.5. Among American-based sires, only the late Nureyev - like Danzig, a son of Northern Dancer - has posted a percentage better than 15 percent, with 17.5 percent stakes winners from foals.

Only two stallions worldwide have sired more stakes winners than Danzig. One was Danehill, who died in 2003 after siring champions in seven countries and more than 300 stakes winners. The other is Sadler's Wells, who, like Danzig, is a son of Northern Dancer. Sadler's Wells also stands at Coolmore.

Both Danehill and Sadler's Wells, however, have benefited from the institution of dual-hemisphere breeding, a practice embraced by Coolmore in the 1990's that allowed the stallions to cover 200 mares or more over the course of a year. During Danzig's stud career at Claiborne, he never covered more than 75 mares, and only four times covered 70 or more mares, according to Gus Koch, the stallion manager at Claiborne.

"That's the Claiborne way," said Koch, who managed Danzig his entire stallion career. "That's the way it was with Mr. Prospector and Nijinsky, and that probably had a big influence on the longevity of their stallions careers. Northern Dancer wasn't a very fertile stallion, but all three of those, all of them his sons who stood here, had very long careers."

Through his first 22 crops, Danzig was highly regarded for siring consistent horses that could race on dirt and turf, and at sprint or classic distances. He was considered one of Northern Dancer's five most influential sons, along with Lyphard, Nijinsky, Nureyev, and Sadler's Wells. Of those five, he was also considered the most similar in type to Northern Dancer, with a small but blocky frame. He stood 15-3 hands.

"He was so much like his dad," Koch said. "Not just physically, but temperament, too. He was never a mean horse, but you wouldn't turn your back on him, because he was always ready to go. If you were letting him out in the paddock, he was ready to go; if you were taking him to the breeding shed, he was ready to go; if you were taking him to his stall, he was ready to go. I loved him. I'll be honest with you, I loved Danzig."

Notable sons and daughters on the racetrack included Chief's Crown, the champion 2-year-old colt of 1984; Lure, the two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile, in 1992 and 1993; Dance Smartly, Horse of the Year in Canada in 1991 and winner of the Breeders' Cup Distaff; Dayjur, Horse of the Year in England in 1990; Pine Bluff, 1992 Preakness Stakes winner; and Danzig Connection, the winner of the 1986 Belmont Stakes.

Though successful in his own right, Danzig also had the benefit of great timing: His first crop of racing age - which included Chief's Crown and two other Grade 1 winners - hit the track just as interest in American bloodlines by European stud managers and Middle Eastern sheikhs began to skyrocket, largely because of Danzig's father.

"All of those buyers were focused at Northern Dancer, and when Danzig's first crop came out and they saw the way they could run, they started taking a real hard look," said Bernie Sams, a Claiborne spokesman, on Tuesday.

Danzig's stud fee in his first year as a stallion in 1981 was $20,000. Four years later, in the midst of the 1980's bloodstock boom and after he had topped the freshman sire lists, his fee climbed to $250,000. While shares in the syndicate that owned Danzig initially went for $80,000, the same shares were selling for $1 million in 1985, according to Koch.

Danzig went on to lead the general sire list for three years in a row, from 1991 to 1993, and has in recent years appeared near the top of the broodmare sire list. His sons and daughters have earned more than $101 million on the racetrack.

Danzig was pensioned in 2004 after covering 45 mares. Although his stud fee was private during his later years, breeding seasons to Danzig routinely sold for $200,000 to $250,000 until his retirement. At the time of his final breeding season, the average sales price for a yearling sired by Danzig offered at auction over the preceding three years was a little more than $700,000.

Out of the Admiral's Voyage mare Pas de Nom, Danzig was bred in Pennsylvania by Will Farish III and the late Marshall Jenney's Derry Meeting Farm. He was sold for $310,000 to Henryk deKwiatkowski as a yearling and was trained during his brief racing career by Woody Stephens. Danzig was retired in his 3-year-old season after winning all three of his races because of an emerging slab fracture in his left knee.

Danzig will be buried at Claiborne, the farm said, alongside other Claiborne notables such as Secretariat, Mr. Prospector, Nijinsky, Bold Ruler, and Round Table.

(1977, Northern Dancer - Pas de Nom, Admiral's Voyage)

Crops: 22 Foals: 1,018 Winners: 599 (59% of foals)

Stakes winners: 188 (18.5% of foals)

Graded stakes winners: 107 Grade 1 winners: 45

Champions: 21 (Ad Valorem, Anabaa, Arbusha, Bianconi, Blue Duster, Chief's Crown, Chimes at Midnight, Dance Smartly, Danehill, Dayjur, Elnadim, Emperor Jones, Golden Snake, Langfuhr, Maroof, Mujahid, Pas de Response, Petit Loup, Polish Patriot, Polish Precedent, Polonia, Yamanin Paradise)

Race record: 3 starts, 3 wins; earnings $32,400

Source: The Blood-Horse; all North American statistics as of Dec. 25, 2005