A tribute to Northern Dancer
A tribute to Northern Dancer

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“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

Fee (US$)

Stallion

950,000

NORTHERN DANCER

750,000

SEATTLE SLEW

450,000

ALYDAR

400,000

NIJINSKY

275,000

BLUSHING GROOM

275,000

DANZIG

275,000

LYPHARD

275,000

MR. PROSPECTOR

250,000

SPECTACULAR BID

225,000

ROBERTO

225,000

SLEW O’ GOLD

200,000

NUREYEV

200,000

EL GRAN SENOR

200,000

DEVIL’S BAG

185,000

THE MINSTREL

150,000

VAGUELY NOBLE

150,000

CONQUISTADOR CIELO

125,000

CARO

125,000

DAMASCUS

125,000

RIVERMAN

125,000

STORM BIRD

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

Fee (US$)

Stallion

150,000

A.P. INDY

150,000

DYNAFORMER

150,000

STREET CRY

125,000

DISTORTED HUMOR

120,000

UNBRIDLED SONG

85,000

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.

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