10 surprising facts about Northern Dancer

The first Canadian-born horse to win the Kentucky Derby


An undated photo of Northern Dancer. (CP)

Fifty years ago, Northern Dancer became the first Canadian-born horse to win the Kentucky Derby. Owned by industrialist E.P. Taylor, the stallion’s short career—18 races in 15 months—didn’t prevent it from becoming Canada’s best-known equine export:

1. In 1962, when E.P. Taylor put Northern Dancer up for auction as a yearling, there were no interested bidders for the $25,000 reserve price, so Taylor kept him.

2. Northern Dancer’s race career consisted of 19 races (15 wins, two seconds, two thirds) over 11 months (August 1963-June 1964).

3.  Northern Dancer was the first Canadian-bred and -owned horse to win the Kentucky Derby.

4. The Kentucky Derby is only for racehorses who are considered three years old. The age of a thoroughbred racehorse changes on Jan. 1, regardless of its birthdate and, because Northern Dancer was born on May 27, 1961, he had not yet reached his chronological third birthday when he won the Kentucky Derby in 1964.

5. Northern Dancer was the first non-human to be inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (1965).

6. Northern Dancer was the world’s leading thoroughbred sire from 1965 to 1990, with his stud fee reaching as high as $1,000,000.

7. One of Northern Dancer’s colts sold for a record $10.2 million.

8. E. P. Taylor received an offer of $40 million from a French syndicate to purchase Northern Dancer when the horse was 21 years old.

9. Although Northern Dancer was in Maryland when he died at the age of 28, his body was returned to Canada and was buried on the same property where he was born, Windfields Farm, in Oshawa, Ont.

10. Almost 50 years after Northern Dancer won the Kentucky Derby, his influence on the thoroughbred racing world is evident. All 20 horses in the 2014 Kentucky Derby had Northern Dancer in their pedigree.

List provided by the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

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