Danzig – Fulfilling Woody’s Prophecy
Northern Dancer is acclaimed as the most successful sire of the twentieth century. His pervasive influence has reached into the twenty-first century as the founder of many of the top sire lines in world-wide breeding today. Arguably one of the most potent branches comes from his son Danzig, an unlikely contributor to the legacy of his sire considering that he never won a stakes race. Danzig might not have added to his sire’s stakes winners total, but he sure would make up for this with his stud career excellence and continue the tail male line by siring sons that have continued the tradition.
Danzig was out of Pas de Nom by Admiral’s Voyage. Bred by William S. Farrish and Marshall Jenny in 1977 and sold to Henryk de Kwiatkowski at the Saratoga yearling sales for $310,000. Danzig won all three of his starts but unfortunately for his connections, none of the races were stakes races, therefore he did not earn black type to his pedigree chart. Woody Stephens was his trainer who considered Danzig to be one of the fastest horses he had ever had in his care. Danzig suffered from a chipped knee after his first start as a two year old.
Coming back as a three year old, Danzig again showed his speed and class by winning both of his starts by five and seven lengths respectively, but unfortunately he developed knee trouble again and so the decision was made to retire him from racing. Stephens was so convinced of Danzig’s talent that he approached Seth Hancock, the proprietor of the fabled Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, to agree to stand Danzig at as a stallion. Seth had known Woody all his life and the two had a mutual respect for each other’s opinions about potential stallions.
Stephens set-up a lunch time meeting with de Kwiatkowski and Hancock and over the course of the meeting a syndication agreement was reached and signed on a table napkin. Being by Northern Dancer, despite the lack of a black type stakes win, Danzig was syndicated for a hefty $80,000 a share and began his stud career in 1981. This would turn out to be a bargain for the original syndicate members.
Danzig was off to a flying start as a sire getting nine stakes winners in his initial crop of foals. The highlight within the initial crop was Chief’s Crown winning the inaugural Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Stakes at Hollywood Park in 1984, and capturing the Eclipse Award as champion two year old. Chief’s Crown won four grade one races as a two year old during his championship season. He later added another four grade one stakes victories as a three year old. After his stellar racing career finished, he became a successful sire at stud. Chief’s Crown sired fifty-three stakes winners. His get included the world class stakes winners Erhaab (Epsom Derby) and Chief Bearheart (Breeder’s Cup Turf).
Danzig was just warming up. There were two more grade one winners in his first crop in Contredance (Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes) and Stephan’s Odyssey (Hollywood Futurity, Dwyer Stakes). Danzig led the North American juvenile sire list with his first crop. This would not be the last time he accomplished this feat. In fact, Danzig went on to be the overall leading sire in North America three times in three straight years (1991-93).
The list of his top offspring are an impressive group in world class racing. Danzig Connection won the Belmont Stakes in 1986 for de Kwiatkowski, thus becoming the fifth of five consecutive winners for the Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens in this classic race. There are many more sons such as Adjudicating (Champagne Stakes, Cowdin Stakes), Strolling Along (Futurity Stakes), Shaadi (Irish 2000 Guineas), Qualify (Del Mar Futurity), Polish Precedent (Prix du Moulin, Prix Jacques le Marois), Polish Patriot (July Cup, champion sprinter in Europe), Polish Navy (Cowdin Stakes, Champagne Stakes, Woodward Stakes), Pine Bluff (Preakness Stakes), Petit Loup (Gran Premio de Milano), Mujahid (Dewhurst Stakes), Military (Oak Tree Turf Championship), Maroof (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes), Hamas (July Cup), Golden Snake (Prix Jean Prat, Prix Ganay, Preis von Europa, Gran Premio del Jockey Club), Elnadim (July Cup), Agnes World (Prix de l’Abbaye), and Ad Valorem (Middle Park Stakes, Queen Anne Stakes).
The daughters of Danzig are not to be ignored. The list includes Blue Duster (Cheveley Park Stakes), Easy Now (Maskette Stakes), Yamanin Paradise (Hanshin Sansai Himba Stakes), Yashmak (Flower Bowl Invitational), Tribulation (Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup), One Of A Klein (Oak Leaf Stakes), Polonia (Prix de l’Abbaye), Pas De Response (Cheveley Park Stakes), and Versailles Treaty (Alabama Stakes, Gazelle Stakes, Test Stakes, Ruffian Handicap).
The above lists are many of the grade/group one stakes winners sired by Danzig. Now let us take a look a little more in depth at the most dominant and prominent of his offspring.
Dance Smartly. One of my personal favourite thoroughbreds of all time, Dance Smartly was quite simply the best female thoroughbred to from Canada. She was bred and raced by Sam-Son Farm in Milton, Ontario, and comes from one of the richest families of stakes winners in the past fifty years. Dance Smartly won three of five races as a two year old, taking the important Natalma Stakes and finish third in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies. Bigger things were to come.
As a three year old, Dance Smartly won eight of eight races, all stakes events. Her incredible year established Dance Smartly as the all time Queen of Canadian racing. The powerful bay began her win streak taking the six furlong Star Shoot Stakes, and then the eight and a half furlong Selene Stakes. She followed up with a resounding win in the classic Canadian Oaks. The Queen’s Plate against the top three year olds in Canada, male or female, was next. Dance Smartly dominated the race and in the process became the darling of Canadian racing fans. The love affair with her fans grew after she won both the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeder’s Stakes to become the only filly in history to win the Canadian Triple Crown.
Dance Smartly was not done there. She beat the boys again in the Molson Export Million and then prepared for the Breeder’s Cup Distaff, to be run at Churchill Downs. Here Dance Smartly would show the racing world her enormous talent when she dominated a high class field of the top fillies and mares in training. Dance Smartly won the race and the admiration of an entire continent. She was unanimously named Canadian Horse of the Year as well as the Eclipse Award champion three year old filly. The honours kept coming as she is a member of both the Canadian and U.S. racing Halls of Fame.
Dayjur. Considered by many who saw him run as one of the fastest horses of all time, Dayjur became the 1990 Horse of the Year in England as a three year old. The fact that he won this honour as a sprinter is significant as in the long history of the English turf only a very select few achieved such awards strictly sprinting. His big wins came in the Ladbroke Sprint Cup, Prix de l’Abbaye, Nunthorpe Stakes, King’s Stand Stakes and the Sears Temple Stakes.
He came to the U.S. to compete in the Breeder’s Cup Sprint and was leading in the stretch, looking like the eventual winner, when he broke stride to jump over shadows from the Belmont grandstand on the track, seventy yards from the finish line. This cost him valuable momentum and he finished second to Safely Kept. It was the first and only race Dayjur ran on a dirt surface.
Lure. A two time winner of the Breeder’s Cup Mile, Lure won fourteen of twenty-five races against top competition. He also had a further eight second place finishes. He captured many other prestigious races such as the Caesar’s International Handicap, the Bernard Baruch Handicap and the Gotham Stakes. Unfortunately, Lure would suffer from poor fertility and did not leave any note worthy offspring.
Langfuhr. Sovereign Award winner Langfuhr won three grade one races, the Vosburgh Stakes, Metropolitan Handicap and the Carter Handicap. He added the Forego Handicap to his racing resume before going to stud at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky. Here he would sire Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando, further champions Lawyer Ron (Whitney Handicap, Woodward Stakes), Imperial Gesture (Beldame Stakes, Gazelle Handicap), Mobil (Dominion Day Stakes), and Kimchi (Woodbine Oaks). Additional grade one stakes winners sired by Langfuhr are Jambalaya (Arlington Million), Interpatation (Joe Hirsch Turf Classic), Lang Field (Citation Handicap) and Euroears (Bing Crosby Stakes).
Anabaa. The champion sprinter in Europe in 1996, Anabaa won the Prix Maurice de Gheest and the July Cup during his four year old season. He will be forever known as the sire of three time Breeder’s Cup Mile winner Goldikova, as well as Anabaa Blue (Prix du Jockey Club), Anacheeva (Caulfield Guineas), Headturner (AJC Derby), Plumania (Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud), Virage De Fortune (Australia Stakes, QTC Sires Produce Stakes), and Yell (MRC Futurity Stakes, CF Orr Stakes).
Green Desert. Two time group one winner Green Desert has been one of the most successful sons of Danzig at stud. Green Desert won the Flying Childers Stakes as a two year old and then the July Cup at three. He was retired to stud at Nunnery Stud in Norfolk, England. His top runners are Sheikh Albadou (Breeder’s Cup Sprint, Nunthorpe Stakes, Haydock Park Sprint Cup), White Hart (Charlie Whittingham Handicap, Woodford Turf Classic), Desert Prince (Irish 2000 Guineas, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Prix du Moulin), Desert Lord (Prix de l’Abbaye), Invincible Spirit (Haydock Park Sprint Cup), Oasis Dream (Middle Park Stakes, July Cup, Nunthorpe Stakes), Cape Cross (Lockinge Stakes, Queen Anne Stakes, Celebration Mile).
Green Desert has been a wonderful sire and is proving to be a very good sire of sires in the tradition of his father and grandfather. Three sons of Green Desert, Oasis Dream, Invincible Spirit and Cape Cross have become consistent grade/group one stakes winning sires. Oasis Dream is the sire of Midday, Power, Naaqoos, and Prohibit. Invincible Spirit is the sire of champions Kingman, Moonlight Cloud and Fleeting Spirit as well as group one winners Lawman, Vale Of York, and Charm Spirit. Cape Cross is the sire of champions Ouija Board and Sea The Stars and group one winner Able One. Sea The Stars has already sired Sea The Moon and Taghrooda while Ouija Board has produced Epsom Derby winner Australia.
Danehill. Here we have the all time leading sire of stakes winners in history, I kid you not. The sensational Danehill has been a revelation in both the northern and southern hemispheres. He sired an astounding two thousand four-hundred and nine foals in his stud career. Three-hundred and fifty-five of these are stakes winners. He led the English/Irish sire list three times, the French list twice, and the Australian leading sire list a sensational nine times. He has sons scattered all around the world that are siring grade/group one stakes winners as well as leading sire lists in many top flight regions.
Among the best of Danehill’s get are Dylan Thomas (Irish Derby, Irish Champion Stakes twice, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe), Desert King (Irish 2000 Guineas, Irish Derby), Redoute’s Choice (Caulfield Guineas, C F Orr Stakes), North Light (Epsom Derby), Dansili (Prix Edmond Blanc), Champs Elysees (Canadian International, Northern Dancer Stakes, Hollywood Turf Cup), Danehill Dancer (Phoenix Stakes, Irish National Stakes), Rock Of Gibraltar (2000 Guineas, Irish 2000 Guineas, Sussex Stakes, St. James Palace Stakes, Prix du Moulin, Dewhurst Stakes, Grand Criterium), and Exceed and Excel (Dubai Racing Club Cup, VRC Newmarket Stakes).
There are other sons of Danzig that have sired world class stakes winners, and winners of other major stakes races including Honor Grades (sire of Adoration, Honor Glide, Magna Graduate), Belong To Me (sire of Circle Of Life, Forever Together), Hard Spun (sire of Wicked Strong), Boundary (sire of Big Brown), Polish Navy (sire of Ghazi, Sea Hero), War Front (sire of Declaration Of War, Lines Of Battle, War Command, Treasure Each Day), and Ascot Knight (sire of Influent, Plenty Of Sugar, Pennyhill Park).
Major stakes winners produced by daughters of Danzig include Fusaichi Pegasus (Kentucky Derby), Distorted Humor (Commonwealth Breeder’s Cup, Leading sire), Arch (Super Derby), Dancethruthedawn (Woodbine Oaks, Queen’s Plate), Scatter The Gold (Queen’s Plate), George Vancouver ( Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf),and Tranquility Lake (Gamely Handicap, Yellow Ribbon Stakes).
Danzig stood 15.3 hands at full growth. He looked very much like his sire, but his coat was just a bit darker brown than that of Northern Dancer. He did have an angled blaze on his face that was shorter than his dad’s and was also angled to the left. He was a pure dominant bay that did not carry the recessive sabino gene that could result in chestnut offspring. He did not sire any chestnut horses. He also was head strong and on occasion display a quick temper if one was not careful with him.
The get of Danzig were very versatile. Danzig sired horses that could run on grass or dirt, sprint or cover the classic distances, precocious two year olds or later developing types. His legacy was speed, and plenty of it. He not only led the North American sire list three times but also appeared another five years within the top ten on the same list. Danzig sired one-thousand and seventy-five named foals. Two-hundred and two became stakes winners, for a strike rate of 18.8%. This is within the top 1% of all sires in history. He more than exceeded the potential as a stallion that Woody Stephens had envisioned when he approached Seth Hancock to stand the non stakes winner as a stallion.
Danzig was a very fertile stallion but during the final few years of his stud career he would drop off in fertility quite dramatically. His final crop contained only eighteen foals, so he was pensioned from stud duty in 2004. Danzig died on January 3, 2006 at Claiborne Farm. He was twenty-nine. He passed away due the infirmities of old age.
Danzig has left a legacy of speed and brilliance that is being passed down very successfully by his sons and daughters. His branch of the Northern Dancer male line is thriving today with many branches coming from his branch. Not bad for a colt that did not win a stakes race. Sometimes, you just never know where the on ramp to the road to excellence begins.
(Photo courtesy of Claiborne Farm)