Northern Dancer (May 27, 1961 – November 16, 1990) was a Canadian-bred Thoroughbred racehorse and the most successful sire of the 20th Century. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association calls him "one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history".
A bay colt, Northern Dancer was by Nearctic and his dam Natalma was by the great Native Dancer. In 1952, Edward P. Taylor, Canadian business magnate and owner of Windfields Farm, had attended the December sale at Newmarket, England where he purchased Lady Angela, a mare in foal to leading English-based sire Nearco. The following spring, Taylor sent Lady Angela to be bred to Nearco once again, then shipped her to his farm in Canada later in 1953, and in 1954, Lady Angela foaled a colt in Canada named Nearctic who was voted the 1958 Sovereign Award for Horse of the Year.
At the yearling sales in Oshawa, Canada, the diminutive Northern Dancer didn't find a buyer at the $25,000 reserve price, so he eventually joined the Windfields Farm racing stable.
Northern Dancer was ridden by Ron Turcotte in his first victory as a two-year-old at Fort Erie Race Track. He won the Summer Stakes and the Coronation Futurity in Canada and the Remsen Stakes in New York. His record of seven victories in nine starts earned him the Canadian Juvenile Championship.
At three, Northern Dancer won the Grade I Flamingo Stakes and the Grade I Florida Derby with jockey Bill Shoemaker aboard. Before the running of the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, trainer Horatio Luro asked Shoemaker to make a commitment to ride Northern Dancer in the Kentucky Derby. But Shoemaker chose a colt he had never ridden named Hill Rise as his Derby mount. The unbeaten Hill Rise had an impressive campaign in California, winning the San Felipe Stakes and the Grade I Santa Anita Derby. Shoemaker campaigned hard to get Hill Rise as his mount, believing the colt represented his best chance for a Derby win. As a result of Shoemaker's decision, Bill Hartack became Northern Dancer's permanent jockey and guided him to victories in the Blue Grass and the Kentucky Derby, winning the Derby over a fast closing Hill Rise in a record time that stood until it was broken by Secretariat in 1973. (Secretariat's record still stands). Hartack and Northern Dancer won the Preakness Stakes, and finished third in the Belmont Stakes to Quadrangle and Roman Brother. After the Belmont, Northern Dancer won Canada's Queen's Plate by seven and a half lengths before tenderness in his left front tendon ended his racing career. He was named North America's champion 3-year-old colt of 1964, and Canadian Horse of the Year.In his two years of racing, Northern Dancer won 14 of his 18 races and never finished worse than third. In The Blood-Horse ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Northern Dancer was ranked #43.