Northern Dancer: legacy

They say to ignore history is to be condemned by it.  So, for me at least, it seems important to know where we’ve been, in order to know where we are headed.  Indeed, writing this blog reminds me of how much I had forgotten, or had stored away in the back cupboards of my mind.

Northern Dancer
Doug Saunders photo

Still as we celebrate Winter Solstice, Hanukah and Christmas this week in North America, I am inclined to set aside the ‘revolution,’ and linger about telling tales about the horse that was central to the shifting perspectives of Thoroughbred horse racing and breeding.

In retrospect, the saga of Northern Dancer unfolded like a wonderful, magical play.  He was, after all, the little horse no one wanted.  My friend, the late Jim Boylen, was among those who could easily have purchased the colt.  Indeed he and brother Phil were at the Windfields yearling sale and liked the look of the stocky bay colt that looked more like a Quarter-horse than a stately Thoroughbred.  Their trainer, however, said, “no.”

Northern Dancer’s lasting impact, of course, was as a stallion.  And right off the mark.

“…Northern Dancer could have had no more appropriate firstborn than the magnificent Viceregal.  Heir to his sire’s tremendous will to win, Viceregal was also one of the most beautiful Thoroughbreds to step upon a racetrack.  He looked every inch an aristocrat.  When the sun touched his chestnut coat it gleamed like gold.  His eye was kind and generous, yet before a race it burned with the “look of eagles.”  A blaze of white from his forelock to his nostrils accented his perfectly sculpted features.  When he pranced onto the track his hooves seemed barely to touch the ground….” Northern Dancer: the legend and his legacy.”

….to be continued

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