Inbreeding is a vexed topic in horse racing. Everyone has an opinion. But in the case of NORTHERN DANCER, it would appear you can’t have too much of a good thing.

Born 60 years ago in Canada, NORTHERN DANCER remains one of the most influential bloodlines in thoroughbred breeding.

Obviously, his far-reaching influence means that many horses, if you go back far enough, have a duplication of NORTHERN DANCER.

Understanding patterns of NORTHERN DANCER in pedigrees may be the key to unlocking his potency. After all, the very concept of inbreeding was designed to pass on dominant genetic traits.

Here are some salient points about NORTHERN DANCER.

  • Some of the best sires in the world are inbred to NORTHERN DANCER within the first 4 generations – most of which are by DANEHILL or sons of DANEHILL (e.g. FASTNET ROCK, REDOUTE’S CHOICE, EXCEED AND EXCEL, SNITZEL, NOT A SINGLE DOUBT, FLYING SPUR etc).
  • The majority of stakes winners by such stallions have NORTHERN DANCER appear at least once on the dam side in the first 5 generations, the most successful sires being;
    • FASTNET ROCK – 36 of 41 Group 1 winners (88%), 141 of 173 stakes winners (82%)
    • EXCEED AND EXCEL – 12 of 16 Group 1 winners (75%), 141 of 185 stakes winners (76%)
  • In some of these stakes winners, NORTHERN DANCER can appear up to 5 times in the first 5 generations!
  • NORTHERN DANCER’s son SADLER’S WELLS is clearly the most effective when it comes to inbreeding with FASTNET ROCK and EXCEED AND EXCEL:
    • FASTNET ROCK – 10 of 41 Group 1 winners (24%), 40 of 173 stakes winners (23%)
    • EXCEED AND EXCEL – 2 of 16 Group 1 winners (13%), 24 of 185 stakes winners (13%)

So what does this all mean?

It means that a horse’s pedigree is significantly enhanced when the following three factors are combined: by a son of DANEHILL, out of a SADLER’S WELLS-related dam, and thus a NORTHERN DANCER duplication of at least 3 within the first 5 generations.

This year Proven Thoroughbreds purchased one horse bred this way – the EXCEED AND EXCEL x SQUANDERED (by HIGH CHAPARRAL) filly, whose NORTHERN DANCER inbreeding quotient is 4m,4m x 4m.

Interestingly, the EXCEED AND EXCEL x HIGH CHAPARRAL cross has never been done before, but EXCEED AND EXCEL’s progeny have a 50% higher winning strike rate when mated with the NORTHERN DANCER broodmare sireline.

It’s also pertinent to note that Proven’s three best performed gallopers over the last 12 months – PRIVATE EYE, GOTTA KISS and SCALLOPINI – are all by DANEHILL line sires and inbred to NORTHERN DANCER within the first 5 generations.

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