Click above to watch a tribute to Northern Dancer…
(Image and Footage : YouTube)
“My, my, my, how the mighty have fallen…”
On my first visit to the United States in 1986, I was privileged to visit the great farms of Kentucky, and to see the legends of those days in the flesh. On one farm, the Hancock family’s Claiborne, were Nijinsky, Danzig, Mr. Prospector, Spectacular Bid, Damascus and Conquistador Cielo, Sir Ivor, Topsider and Hawaii. But it was Northern Dancer who stood out above all, and his stud fee in those days stood at US$950,000 (on its way to $1 million). I was looking at a published schedule of current stud fees in the US a few days back, which reminded me of the brochures I’d brought back from my maiden voyage to what was then the epicentre of world breeding. These were the fees :
US STALLION FEES - 1986
SLEW O’ GOLD
EL GRAN SENOR
Another six stallions commanded six-figure fees, making a total of 27.
Twenty six years later, there are only a handful of six figure stallions, the top price in the US being $150,000. My recollection of the top horses in 2011 is as follows :
US STALLION FEES - 2011
GIANT’S CAUSEWAY *
* Champion Sire of the last two seasons
You wonder how the industry sustained itself in the late 1980’s (and that’s probably why when the world went belly-up in the latter part of that decade, things tumbled right out of bed), and then by contrast, you’d have to ask how farms are making it today off these substantially reduced numbers.