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Northern Dancer has another very good year
The Eclipse Awards ceremony was yet another testimonial on behalf of the strength and dominance of the Northern Dancer male line.
As recounted in the Daily Racing Form year-end review, tail-male descendants of Northern Dancer won more than a third of North American graded races last year, slightly expanding his dominance at the highest levels of American racing over the Mr. Prospector male line. Across the Atlantic, Northern Dancer’s great-grandson Frankel was acclaimed the best horse in the world after completing his 14-race career unbeaten.
Northern Dancer dominated the Eclipse Awards ceremony Jan. 19, his descendants taking home nine of the 11 equine trophies for flat racing. Descendants of Mr. Prospector took the other two. The results extended Northern Dancer’s lead both by individual number of historic Eclipse Award winners and total number of Eclipse Awards won. Sixty-three male-line descendants of Northern Dancer have earned 81 statuettes since the year-end championships were consolidated in 1971. Mr. Prospector ranks second among male lines with 54 individual winners of 68 Eclipse Awards, followed by Bold Ruler, Turn-To, and Blushing Groom.
Since 63.4 percent of North American graded stakes winners of 2012 descend in male line from either Northern Dancer or Mr. Prospector, and those five male lines together accounted for more than 88 percent of all 2012 North American graded stakes winners, the Eclipse Award monopoly is more or less inevitable.
Northern Dancer’s dominance in 2012, though, is unusual, especially considering that the trend for the past 10 years has been very much in the direction of Mr. Prospector.
The Storm Cat branch of Northern Dancer has long been heavily represented at stud in the United States and provided 50 of Northern Dancer’s 120 2012 graded stakes winners. Four male-line descendants of Storm Cat accounted for six of the nine Eclipse statuettes awarded to Northern Dancer’s descendants, including Horse of the Year, champion older male, and champion turf male Wise Dan.
Three of those four Eclipse winners trace their descent from Storm Cat through his 1995 Hopeful Stakes-winning son, Hennessy. From Storm Cat’s fifth crop, the first conceived after Storm Cat’s first crop made it obvious he would be a good sire, Hennessy was bred by Storm Cat’s owner-breeder, Overbrook Farm, and is out of the outstanding producer Island Kitty, by Hawaii.
A golden chestnut half-brother to graded winners Shy Tom (by Blushing Groom) and Pearl City (by Carson City), Hennessy was rather light below the knee and long in the back, but he possessed Storm Cat’s signature long, powerful hip. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, he showed precocious speed, winning the Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes and Sapling Stakes before his Hopeful victory.
Hennessy also stayed well enough to run Unbridled’s Song to a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but did not race again after a disappointing fourth in the Hollywood Futurity in his ninth juvenile start.
Hennessy stood at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., for 11 seasons, shuttled to Australia and Argentina on occasion, and compiled an honorable, if somewhat inconsistent, stud record. He sired a worldwide total of 1,401 foals, including 76 stakes winners, headed by his best son, Johannesburg (out of Myth, by Ogygian), who was acclaimed the world’s champion juvenile of 2001 after capturing Grade 1 or Group 1 events in England, France, Ireland, and the United States, culminating in a stirring victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
The stud career of Johannesburg, like his sire, has been somewhat spotty. He has sired 52 stakes winners from 1,410 foals age 3 and up (3.7 percent), a low percentage that resulted in his permanent export to Japan in 2009.
Johannesburg’s graded stakes-winning son Teuflesburg, however, sired Trinniberg in his first crop, and that colt clinched the Eclipse Award for champion male sprinter with his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Johannesburg’s sons Scat Daddy and Sageburg also sired group or graded winners in 2012.
Hennessy’s son Henny Hughes (out of Meadow Flyer, by Meadowlake) came close to earning a sprint championship with his victories in the 2006 Vosburgh and King’s Bishop Stakes. He has not enjoyed the expected success at stud, however, and 2012 champion 2-year-old filly Beholder, winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, is his first Grade 1 winner and third graded stakes winner among his 14 stakes winners.
Hennessy’s son Wiseman’s Ferry (out of Emmaus, by Silver Deputy) never managed the Grade 1 victories of Johannesburg and Henny Hughes, but did win the 2002 West Virginia and Lone Star derbies, both Grade 3, after beginning his racing career in Ireland. Wise Dan is by far the best of his six stakes winners.
The fourth Eclipse Award winner from the Storm Cat line is champion 2-year-old male Shanghai Bobby, the first champion sired by one of his more consistent descendants, Harlan’s Holiday. By Storm Cat’s first-crop son Harlan, Harlan’s Holiday was a consistent racehorse, winning 9 of 22 starts, with six seconds, winning the 2002 Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes and 2003 Donn Handicap. He has sired 34 stakes winners to date from 565 foals age 3 and up (5.1 percent), and 14 won graded stakes, including 2007 CashCall Futurity winner Into Mischief, one of the leading freshman sires of 2012.
The fifth Eclipse Award winner from the Northern Dancer line is champion female sprinter Groupie Doll, a granddaughter of Northern Dancer’s surprisingly successful son Dixieland Band. Her sire, Bowman’s Band (by Dixieland Band), won the 2003 Meadowlands Breeders’ Cup Stakes. Groupie Doll is his only graded winner among his 13 stakes winners.
Nijinsky II was Northern Dancer’s best son, setting his sire’s stud career on a golden trajectory with his victory in the 1970 English Triple Crown, and established a successful male line that is now fading. Zagora, 2012 champion turf female, by Nijinsky II’s grandson Green Tune, could well be the last of six male-line descendants of Nijinsky II to earn a statuette. Winner of the 1994 French 2000 Guineas, Green Tune was the most successful son of Nijinsky II’s 1975 French 2000 Guineas winner, Green Dancer, at stud, but he has not yet passed on the male line to any of his sons.
Hard Spun, sire of champion 3-year-old filly Questing in his first crop, is the last good son of three-time leading sire Danzig to race in America. Hard Spun won the 2007 King’s Bishop Stakes and stayed well enough to run second in both the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Though he did not stay sound long enough to win a stakes race, Danzig was Northern Dancer’s most successful American son at stud, and his line continues to thrive internationally, principally through the great Danehill.
Thanks for this truly historic info, great column!