When I finished the first draft I had discovered that every single horse proudly standing in the winners’ circle of the world’s most prominent races – from Dubai to Australia to Japan to Great Britain to Ireland to France to North America – including every Breeders’ Cup winner- descended from these Rivers of Gold and often the convergence of these streams. Indeed, it wasn’t until I was in the thick of this adventure that I discovered the importance and the significance of the converging factor.
Phase one of this expedition began in 2002 when John Sparkman, editor of US weekly magazine, Thoroughbred Times, invited me to write an article on Canada’s contribution to the Thoroughbred gene pool.
The instant and obvious answer was Northern Dancer. After all, over half the world’s Thoroughbred population trace back to this one Canadian stallion. But was that it? Was Canada a one-horse country? Before setting out I would probably have agreed. Let’s face it, this was the horse that had enticed me and countless other Canadians into the world of horse racing.
We are, incidentally, a reticent people and consider bragging unseemly, hence disinclined to champion celebrities. Yet with Northern Dancer, our plucky Canadian underdog, we followed his every race with uncommon devotion. When he won the 1964 Kentucky Derby in record time we were almost giddy with pride.
Still I knew little about horse racing in this country prior to Northern Dancer, much less Canada’s contribution to the gene pool. Nonetheless off I went. Before long I found myself lured into a veritable forest of information, from genetics to the science of horse breeding, to long buried historical accounts. Along the way I happened upon a number of colourful characters who, accidentally, changed the course and destiny of the Thoroughbred.
Sparkman was looking for an article that would run about 2,500 words. I wrote more than 30,000…..
to be continued….