Updated on 09/15/2011 12:25PM

Luro's equine artistry still on display


ELMONT,N.Y. - Whatever they were, The Grand Senor was always ready for the contingencies, for the unexpected.

Horatio Luro was more than a trainer of Thoroughbred horses. He was an outstanding artist and his greatest canvas, beyond a doubt, was Northern Dancer. The dandy little Canadian colt, Northern Dancer was the world's top sire of the 20th Century, and through his sons and grandsons, his influence continues. Just last weekend, his offspring Sadler's Wells had the winner of the Epsom Derby, Galileo, and the Oaks, Imagine.

Luro trained Northern Dancer's sire, Nearctic, and his dam, Natalma, and his deft touches were instrumental in the progress of both. Nearctic was full of speed and needed to learn how to relax. The exercise rider wasn't forceful enough to impose a diet of long, slow gallops at Santa Anita one winter so Luro called on an old friend. Rae Johnstone, one of Europe's greatest riders, with 30 classic victories to his credit, was on holiday in California. He was delighted to work with Luro and the problem colt. Between the daily gallops and long walks through nearby wooded areas, Johnstone and Nearctic reached an accommodation, and soon after, Nearctic was winning good stakes at nine furlongs.

Northern Dancer developed a quarter-crack in the fall of his 2-year-old season, and at that time, almost 40 years ago, that was bad news. His connections made arrangements to ship the colt back to Toronto for a long rest, until he could grow a new foot. It would mean missing the classics, and Luro didn't want to miss the classics with this fine prospect. He contacted blacksmith Bill Bane, who had developed a new technique in California with quarter cracks.

Bane flew to New York, put on his vulcanized rubber patch, and Northern Dancer set a track record of 2:00 in winning the Kentucky Derby. He also won the Preakness, but the 1 1/2miles of the Belmont was a bit too long for him.

It wasn't too long, however, for one of Northern Dancer's first good sons, following his retirement in the summer of 1964. Nijinsky II was a sharp contrast to his sire in appearance, standing 17 hands to the Dancer's 15.2 hands. He had a lot of his sire's speed, too, but learned to conserve it, and in 1970 became England's first Triple Crown winner since Bahram in 1935.

Nijinsky sired more than 150 stakes winners, including three Epsom Derby winners and Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand. Other remarkable sons of Northern Dancer included Danzig, sire of more than 150 stakes winners; Nureyev, sire of more than 100 stakes winners. and Sadler's Wells, sire of 150 stakes winners.

The Minstrel and Secreto were two more Epsom Derby winners sired by Northern Dancer. The Minstrel sired Palace Music, whose son, Cigar, is America's leading money winner. Secreto won his Epsom Derby in 1984, beating another son of Northern Dancer, El Gran Senor, by a nose.

The leading grandson of Northern Dancer at stud is Storm Cat, whose stud fee for 2001 is $400,000. He has sired the Breeders' Cup Classic winner Cat Thief, as well as Preakness and Belmont winner Tabasco Cat. It's a remarkable record, and it came about because Horatio Luro had a way of meeting challenges.