Natalma – Matriarch To A Dynasty
When we look back at the greats of the turf, very seldom are the mothers of these heralded horses given much mention. When we say the name Northern Dancer, all kinds of adulation are heaped during the conversation, and rightfully so, about his racing and stud record. However little is said of his dam, the wonderful Natalma. I am sure everyone who follow racing is aware of her contribution of Northern Dancer, but what about her thirteen other foals she had after giving birth to a legend.
Natalma is no one trick pony as a broodmare. She is in fact the matriarch of a very powerful family in today’s breeding realm.
A foal of 1957, Natalma was a lovely bay daughter of the “Grey Ghost Of Sagamore’, the great Native Dancer. The dam of Natalma was the accomplished broodmare Almahmoud, daughter of another legendary grey Mahmoud. Almahmoud was a chestnut and has in hindsight become a foundation mare in her own right, with the likes of top stallions Halo and Arctic Tern among her descendants, as well as Natalma’s notable contributions. E. P. Taylor purchased Natalma as a yearling for $35,000 at the 1958 Saratoga Yearling Sales.
Horatio Luro was given the task of training Natalma and quickly discovered her to be exceptionally fast and talented, but she had a strong stubborn streak. Natalma grew to dislike being hit with the rider’s crop and would eventually refuse to go on the track, associating the activity with receiving punishment. The sting of the whip cost Natalma the win in the prestigious Spinaway Stakes when she ducked in causing interference after receiving a hard tap from her rider.
Luro was a patient trainer and took his time with Natalma to ease her of her phobia. He would have her come to the track entrance during training sessions, and then turn her around and go back to the barn. Gradually Luro had Natalma step onto the track and just walk, jog and later as he sensed her confidence return she would run again on the racing surface. This took considerable time, which meant Natalma would miss valuable training for the classics in her three year old season. The season would eventually be cut short anyhow when Natalma chipped her knee in early June and was taken out of training.
There was much consideration given to having her injury operated on and return Natalma to the track for a campaign as a four year old. However, Taylor had bought the filly with a breeding career in mind, and even though she had not officially won a stakes race, she had shown the talent to do so. It was now late in the 1960 breeding season. A decision needed to be made about Natalma’s future, and soon.
Meanwhile back at Windfields Farm in Oshawa, first year stallion Nearctic was proving to be very fertile and had impregnated most of his mares on only one cover. Taylor and his chief advisor Joe Thomas thought Nearctic to be a good match for Natalma. The decision was made to retire Natalma and breed her to Nearctic. The meeting took place on June 30, and it became a fortuitous moment in racing history.
An irony of sorts in having Natalma and Nearctic meet was due to the fact that Natalma was purchased with the money from Nearctic’s winnings in the 1958 Michigan Mile when he defeated a stellar field. A little bit of kismet, for those who believe in such occurrences.
Natalma caught on that cover from Nearctic and on May 27, 1961 she produced Northern Dancer at Windfields Farm. The little future superstar came into the world in barn six at 12.15 am. I could justifiably go on here about Northern Dancer, but the reason of this article is to point out the outstanding accomplishments of many of his siblings, and display the scope of Natalma’s incredible influence on the breed.
Victoria Park would be the next suitor to Natalma and in 1962 she produced a bay colt. Given the name Native Victor, the feisty colt went unsold at the annual Windfields yearling sales and raced under the turquoise and gold colours of the farm. Native Victor won three stakes races during his seven year track career. He was a durable fellow making one hundred and five starts over that span, winning eighteen. Unfortunately for him, Native Victor did not escape the vet’s knife and was gelded to try and curb his aggression. The unkindest cut of all on Native Victor took place before the revelation of Northern Dancer as a race horse, and certainly before that one began his legendary stud career.
The year after Native Victor was born, a full sister to Northern Dancer entered the world. By the time the bay filly reached the Windfields yearling sales, her brother had become a racing legend. The filly was purchased for a record $100,000 by turf patron Jean-Louis Lévesque. Given the name Arctic Dancer, she briefly displayed her speed and talent. Placing second in the My Dear Stakes, her first start, Arctic Dancer then suffered a career ending injury in her next event while finishing last in the Clarendon Stakes as the heavy favourite. Levesque sent her for repairs on her leg injury and planned her breeding career.
The third foal Arctic Dancer produced became an instant legend. La Prevoyante was a foal of 1970 and authored one of, and arguably the most impressive juvenile campaigns ever witnessed by a two year old filly. A perfect twelve for twelve season in which she was never seriously challenged, La Prevoyante became the darling of not only Canadian race fans, but also race fans around the entire North American continent. La Prevoyante was named Canadian Horse of the Year, and finished second to the great Secretariat in Eclipse Award Horse of the Year voting south of the border.
The career of La Prevoyante took some unexpected downward turns with the occasional glimpse of her brilliance after that magical season. Tragically, as many know, the beautiful bay daughter of Buckpasser died of a ruptured lung following another disappointing race late in her four year old campaign. The great La Prevoyante is now a Hall of Fame inductee in both her native Canada and in the U.S.
Arctic Dancer produced a full sister to La Prevoyante in 1974 named Danseuse Etoile. She is the second dam of stakes winner and classic placed Proud Citizen by Gone West. Proud Citizen has been a very good sire at stud and counts Kentucky Oaks winners Proud Spell and Believe You Can among his stakes winners. He passed away in 2016 at the age of seventeen due to laminitis. At the time of his death, Proud Citizen had thirty-five stakes winners credited to his sire record.
Natalma had changed her passport in 1969 and was now residing at the Maryland farm in the Windfields domain. She met up with Nearctic to produce another colt in 1972, a chestnut this time, named Transalantic. Transalantic won once and placed once from three starts. He did not have the powerful sire gene as did his famous brother and was a disappointment at stud.
The next foal from Natalma was a bay daughter of the great Buckpasser. Here we have a bona fide solid branch of the family that has produced some wonderful horses. Taylor used one of his breeding rights to Buckpasser, likely due to the success of La Prevoyante, which showed that this nick is one to pursue. The resulting foal was a bay filly that was sold at the Saratoga yearling sales for $260,000 to none other than Danny Van Clief, the co-breeder of Natalma. Van Clief named the filly Spring Adieu.
Spring Adieu won three of seven races on the track, the same wins from starts totals as her dam, before she was retired for breeding. The second foal Spring Adieu produced was a bay filly by His Majesty that was sold to Prince Khalid Abdullah who was at the time establishing his now famous Juddmonte Farms racing/breeding operation into one of the most successful such enterprises in the world. The filly was given the name Razyana.
Razyana made three starts, placing second twice, and went off to the breeding arena. Her first breeding was to Northern Dancer’s great son Danzig, resulting in a colt which Prince Khalid later named Danehill. Danehill became a top sprinter during his racing career and counts the group one July Sprint Cup among his three stakes wins. Danehill was purchased by Coolmore for stud duty, and a remarkable stallion career began.
Danehill became the poster boy to the shuttle sire program as he plied his trade in both hemispheres at Coolmore in Ireland, and at Arrowfield in Australia. He was a revelation in the role becoming the most decorated stallion, for total stakes winners sired, in the world. Danehill sired three hundred and forty-nine stakes winners, a world record that still stands, in a thirteen year stallion career. He led the Australian sire list nine times, England/Ireland three times, and France twice. Fifty-eight of these stakes winners won at the grade/group one level. He did this working throughout the calendar year on two continents.
The impressive sire record of Danehill does not stop there. He has sons and now grandsons standing stud around the world with many of such becoming leading sires in their own right. Many of Danehill’s daughters have become outstanding broodmares as well with more than two hundred and fifty, and counting, stakes winners produced. The significance of Danehill being inbred to Natalma 3×3 looms large in his pedigree.
When we consider the fact that many of these daughters have produced stakes winners when bred to other Northern Dancer line stallions, thus creating three up close crosses of Natalma in the resulting offspring’s pedigrees, we cannot deny the impact of Natalma’s blood as the thoroughbred breed progresses into the twenty-first century.
The influence of Natalma is also felt to a high degree through another of her daughters. The cleverly named Raise The Standard, a bay daughter of Hoist The Flag, was foaled four years after Spring Adieu. Raise The Standard did not attain her reserve price at yearling sale time and was retained by Windfields Farm. She was also unraced due to a series of nagging injuries that kept her from displaying her talent. Mac Benson would have been her trainer and remembers Raise The Standard as having good size and bone, but her ankles became an issue. Alas it was not meant to be for her to have a racing career.
Raise The Standard would however make up for her lack of racing when in 1982 she produced her first foal, a bay filly by Halo. Stavros Niarchos purchased the filly from Windfields at the Keeneland July yearling sales and gave his new acquisition the name Coup De Folie. Coup De Folie won the group three Prix d’Aumale and the Prix de Saint Cyr. As a broodmare she would produce three group one stakes winners, two of which were named as champions, an additional stakes winner and daughters that have continued the tail female line with distinction.
Machiavellian was the first. He won the group one Prix Morny and Prix de la Salamandre at two to be named champion juvenile in France. After his racing career finished, Machiavellian became an outstanding stallion. Best Of The Bests, Medicean, Invermark, Vettori, Rebecca Sharp, and Street Cry are all grade/group one winners he has sired. Medicean and Street Cry have continued the sire line with some very memorable runners in recent time. Street Cry has sired among his many stakes winners the incredible Zenyatta and current super star Winx.
Exit To Nowhere was the second foal from Coup De Folie. This son of Irish River won the group one Prix Jacques le Marois and later became a solid if unspectacular sire. Third foal Hydro Calido by Nureyev won the group two Prix d ‘Astarte. Fourth foal was unraced Salchow by Nijinsky II, who is the dam of Grand Criterium winner Way Of Light. The fifth foal from Coup De Folie was sired by Mr. Prospector, thus was a full sister to Machiavellian.
Coup De Genie has been one of the key females in the Niarchos family’s racing and breeding success. The Mr. Prospector – Coup De Folie filly won the Prix Morny and Prix de la Salamandre and was named as the champion French juvenile filly in 1993. Later as a broodmare she would produce the French champion two year old filly in 2003 in the very fast Denobla, a daughter of Storm Cat. Here we have another example of increased Natalma influence as seen in the pedigree of Denobla. Coup De Genie’s first foal was unraced Moonlight’s Box, by Nureyev. Moonlight’s Box is the dam of two times European champion Bago, and multiple group one winner Maxios.
There are further champions and grade/group one winners along the tail female line descending from Natalma. Orpen (Champion two year old Ireland), Bluemamba (Poules d’Essai des Poulins), Emollient (Ashland Stakes, Spinster Stakes, etc), Calgary Cat (Champion Sprinter in Canada) are but a few more of the top level winners in the regal family of Natalma.
The final foal Natalma produced was a bay filly by Tentam. Named Born A Lady by her owners Brushwood Farm, who had purchased the filly from Windfields, she captured the Pearl Necklace Stakes during her racing career. Today we see Born A Lady as the tail female ancestress of group one winners Amanpour in Australia and Rapper Dragon in Hong Kong.
So clearly Natalma is the matriarch of one of the most powerful families in worldwide racing and breeding. As the dam of Northern Dancer, she set her place in history as a major contributor to the breeding of champions. Descendants such as La Prevoyante, Coup De Genie, Denobla, Bago, Maxios and Amanpour continued flying the Natalma flag, and all the great champions sired by Northern Dancer and his sons and grandsons, Danehill and his sons and grandsons, Machiavellian’s sons Street Cry and Medicean, and of course all the broodmares sired by these stallions that produced champions all have crosses, or multiple crosses of the great matriarch.
Top stallions, some of which will never be approached for sheer impact, as well as outstanding broodmares and champion racers line the pages of Natalma’s legacy. It is stunning to think about when it is all realised.
The most frequent suitor to Natalma was Nearctic. They were bred to each other for eight breeding seasons, but the resulting foals after their big triumph together were never as successful as Northern Dancer. However the well was certainly deep from both in later years, just not with each other.
Natalma lived as a coddled pensioner after she foaled Born A Lady for another four years on the Windfields Maryland Farm. She passed away in 1985 and is buried on the former farm site. Natalma was the matriarch to an empire. Windfields had many such mares in their glorious history, such as Lady Angela, Queen’s Statute, Reply, Iribelle, Solar Display, Nangela, Compensate, Sex Appeal and Ballade. Each one was a very significant mare in breeding history, with significant impact.
However they did not have the extreme impact that Natalma had on the world. So when we celebrate Northern Dancer, save some of the cheering for his dam, and raise a toast to the incredible Natalma.
(Photo courtesy of Windfields Farm Archives)