One of the most fascinating, and rewarding, aspects to writing biographies of horses, especially the exceptional ones, is discovering their essential natures. Hence, what made them stand out. For starters, I found that they are often independent. For example: Nearctic, sire of Northern Dancer, according to Bill Reeves, Windfields broodmare manager: “..he had the look. He would stare at you – as if to say ‘I am king.'” Nor did he follow his mom, Lady Angela, around the field: “… instead he would be standing at the gate, on his own.” (Dark Horse: unraveling the mystery of Nearctic)
Interestingly, years later, his Northern Dancer was often found at the gate on his own. Indeed, that, and his diminutive size, were the first things that drew Winifred Taylor to their cheeky little bay colt. In later years, Mrs. Taylor would reign as the sole human this highly independent horse would actually tolerate and like.
Northern Dancer’s paternal grandsire, Nearco, was also extremely independent: “…Tesio (Nearco’s breeder/owner) was an exacting trainer…but no matter how severely he tested Nearco’s superiority, the grand colt barely turned a hair… Nearco was neither bad-tempered nor difficult. At the sound of the starters pistol he simply galloped off and won with coolness and detachment..”
Nearctic’s grandsire, Hyperion, also trotted to his own drummer: “…His rider didn’t have much faith in Hyperion…while the other young horses snorted and kicked up their
heels as they scampered over Newmarket’s lush turf, Hyperion seemed content to amble along. He was in no way affected by the antics of the others. He also had the habit of coming to a complete halt whenever and wherever the notion struck him..”
Hyperion would, of course, win the English Derby and be leading stallion in Great Britain in six different years and twice leading sire of broodmares.