05/03/2013 3:04PM

Kentucky Derby: Northern Dancer sire line well-represented in field


The horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby will be racing for more than just the purse money and a gold trophy. They’ll also be racing to build résumés for their stallion careers and add to the legacies of their sire lines.

In that sense, the Northern Dancer line has the most bullets in the Derby 139 field to further bolster its footprint on Thoroughbred breeding. One of the most prominent sire lines in North American breeding, the Northern Dancer line is represented by 12 of the 21 horses entered for this year’s edition of the classic race, including also-eligible Fear the Kitten, who did not draw into the field and was scratched.

Derby entrants who will seek to carry on the Northern Dancer line when they retire to stud include Oxbow, Golden Soul, Giant Finish, Goldencents, Overanalyze, Lines of Battle, Itsmyluckyday, Falling Sky, Charming Kitten, Frac Daddy, and Fear the Kitten. Vyjack is also from the Northern Dancer line, but the gelded son of Into Mischief will not be furthering his branch of the family tree.

[KENTUCKY DERBY FIELD: Contender profiles and handicapping videos]

Bred in Canada by E.P. Taylor, owner of the storied Windfields Farm in Oshawa, Ont., Northern Dancer excelled at every stage of his career. He was named Canada’s champion 2-year-old of 1963, and followed with a 1964 campaign that included wins in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Queen’s Plate Stakes, the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, to secure Canadian Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old honors in the U.S.

The son of Nearco retired after the 1964 season to stand at Windfields Farm until 1969, when he was moved to the farm’s Maryland base. He sired 23 crops during his stallion career, the first arriving in 1966 and the last in 1988, with 411 winners for earnings surpassing $31 million. Northern Dancer died in 1990 at age 29.

On the track, Northern Dancer’s progeny included 23 champions. He was North America’s leading sire in 1971 and the leading broodmare sire of 1991. His influence reached internationally without ever leaving North America, as he was a four-time leading sire in England and placed among the leading sires or broodmare sires in France, Ireland and Japan.

The sire’s reputation continued to expand as his offspring began breeding careers of their own. His male line branched out quickly with sons Vice Regent, Dixieland Band, Nijinsky II, Nureyev, Danzig, and Storm Bird, who sired the most successful stallion of the next generation, the legendary Storm Cat. Other prominent Northern Dancer-line sires through the generations include Deputy Minister, Silver Deputy, Sadler’s Wells, Touch Gold, Regal Classic, Summer Squall and Hennessy.

Today, the Northern Dancer line is represented by stallions including Frankel, Posse, Kodiak Kowboy, Awesome Again, Ghostzapper, High Cotton, Sea the Stars, Union Rags, Unusual Heat, Tale of the Cat, Lion Heart, Stormy Atlantic, Medaglia d’Oro, and Kitten’s Joy, among many others. On Saturday, another colt might take a big step in joining that company.