Nearctic – E.P. Taylor’s Cornerstone Stallion
Nearctic was the result of influential Canadian E. P. Taylor’s quest to acquire the best bloodlines in the world and breed champions in his native land. Taylor purchased his dam Lady Angela, in 1952 through George Blackwell, a top agent of the British Bloodstock Agency who Taylor instructed to find him the best mare available. Lady Angela was the best available and was consigned to the Newmarket December sale that year. Lady Angela was by Hyperion out of Sister Sarah by Abbot’s Trace. Sister Sarah had already produced Lady Sybil by Nearco and Lady Angela was in foal to Nearco at the time. Taylor had one request toward the purchase however, as he wanted Lady Angela to have her foal in England and then be bred back to Nearco. Once she was certified in foal she would then be sent to Canada.
This took a lot of negotiation and Taylor had to dig deep into his pocket to make his request come true, but a deal was reached and Blackwell purchased Lady Angela on Taylor’s behalf. She produced a chestnut colt in 1953 and then after a successful reunion with Nearco, she was sent to Canada.
There was more drama to unfold in this saga as when Lady Angela and her colt arrived in Montreal, the staff on the ship she travelled on were not very savvy as to handling horses, especially mares with a suckling at her side. The crate which carried equines to the dock was only large enough for one horse at a time. They tried to unload the mare first, but she became frantic as she did not want to be separated from her son. Windfields management had sent Harry Green, an experienced horseman to collect Lady Angela and when he saw the ensuing chaos developing he quickly took charge and had the colt led to the crate to be taken down to the dock first and then the mare quietly and with no trouble what so ever went on her ride to the dock immediately after.
Lady Angela could have induced a miscarriage with her panic attack in Montreal but luckily for the future of Thoroughbred breeding she did not, for the foal she was carrying was Nearctic. He was born February 11, 1954 at Windfields and was a dark bay almost black colt similar to his sire and with a similar temperament as well.
Nearctic was offered at Windfields’ private yearling sales in 1955 with the price of $35,000, a hefty sum in those days. The colt would go unsold and as was the custom of Windfields’ policy, was added to the racing stable to compete under the famous turquoise and gold colours of Taylor’s Windfields Farm. Being a foal of 1954, Nearctic was one of many exceptional colts to race from that generation, such as Bold Ruler, Round Table, Gallant Man, Iron Liege, Clem, King Hairan, Gen Duke, Barbizon etc. Nearctic would face many of the above mentioned stars, acquitting himself admirably.
Taylor’s Canadian based trainer Gordon “Pete” McCann was entrusted to prepare the headstrong young colt for his racing career. McCann was an ex-jockey and a very astute and superior horseman. McCann did much of the workout riding on the horses in his care, especially the difficult ones, and could access the fitness and mental condition of his charges first hand. It became apparent to Pete that this almost black colt had exceptional speed and a mind of his own. Nearctic wanted to run as fast as he could as soon as the gate opened, not having any interest in being rated or conserving energy for a longer distance. McCann knew he had his work cut out if he was to get Nearctic to compete successfully at classic distances, not just sprints.
Nearctic made his racing début on May 10, 1956 at Old Woodbine, later to be renamed Greenwood, in a four and one half furlong maiden two year old event. The son of Nearco burst out of the starting gate as if he were shot out of cannon, and gradually increased his lead throughout the race to win. He won his next race, also four and one half furlongs at Old Woodbine. The next three starts would come at the magnificent new state of the art Woodbine Racetrack, which had opened in June of 1956, built by the Ontario Jockey Club and spearheaded by E.P. Taylor himself.
All three of the races were stakes races, the Swansea Plate, Clarendon Stakes and Victoria Stakes, saw Nearctic taking the first prize in each. His rider for the three races was none other than future Hall of Fame jockey Avellino Gomez. The combination of McCann and Gomez would be the right tonic for Nearctic to perform at his best, but this combination was not always available for the colt, as we shall see.
With a five for five record, the decision was made to take Nearctic to the US, Saratoga in particular, to test him against the top American two year old colts. McCann was a very shy and unassuming man. His life was his horses and his family. He was not one to travel and was reluctant to go to Saratoga, as he also had many other Thoroughbreds in his barn that needed his attention, as well as Nearctic. McCann declined to go to the famous spa.
Complicating matters for Nearctic was the fact that the Cuban born Gomez was not licensed to ride in the U.S., as he was considered a draft dodger. Gomez began his riding career in Chicago, moving back to Cuba in 1951, and then on to Toronto two years later to resume his riding career. He was drafted when he was back in his native land, subsequently did not report, and was handed the banishment. It would take until 1961 for Gomez to actually enter the States without threat of imprisonment.
Nearctic was entered in the Flash Stakes at Saratoga on opening day for the prestigious meet. Charlie Shaw was listed as the trainer, while Eric Guerin the noted jockey of Native Dancer took the saddle. As was his custom Nearctic blasted out of the gate, but Guerin was trying to rate the black colt and the ensuing battle of wills between horse and rider would exhaust Nearctic, eventually finishing eighth in the five and one half furlong race. Shaw commented that Nearctic should return to Toronto as he was of the belief that the colt did not prove himself. Taylor and his advisers had other plans.
The Saratoga Special Stakes was to be run one week later. George Walker was engaged to ride Nearctic, as he had previous experience since he was in the irons for the second start of Nearctic’s career. This time Nearctic was allowed to run freely, leading from gate to wire in the six furlong race, as he was chased by the good horse Clem the entire time.
The prestigious Hopeful Stakes was next and a date with the summer two year old sensation King Hairan. Nearctic set a very hot pace and was worn down by King Hairan in the stretch for the win, with Nearctic fading to fourth. He was suffering from bucked shins, which had been discovered after the Special Stakes win, and was obviously in pain.
Nearctic went back to Windfields Farm, and more importantly, back into the hands of Pete McCann. McCann got the colt back to good mental health and soundness in time for the Carlton Stakes at the end of September at Woodbine. He duly won the race by four and one half lengths with Avellino Gomez hand riding him home. However, Nearctic’s left front hoof started to develop a quarter crack, the same type of injury his future famous son Northern Dancer would have in his racing career. McCann wanted to rest the colt and treat the injury before it became too severe. He was over ruled. While Taylor was busy with his various business enterprises, he had deferred the racing stable decisions to his advisory staff. Nearctic was to enter and run at Belmont in the Anticipation Purse against the now top two year old Bold Ruler. McCann did not go, protesting the decision.
Bold Ruler, fit and in perfect condition, ran Nearctic into submission after a hotly contested pace between the two descendants of Nearco. Nearctic finished fifth and in considerable pain from his split left front hoof. But instead of giving the colt the rest and rehab needed, Nearctic was back eight days later for the Belmont Futurity and another face to face with Bold Ruler. Charlie Shaw was again the trainer and he put blinkers on Nearctic. The race was a disaster, as Nearctic could no longer endure the pain and stopped cold. He would be returned to Pete McCann.
Nearctic became Canada’s top two year old colt. He later became Canadian Horse of the Year in 1958, as a four year old. He won an impressive twenty-one races in his four year career with the highlights being wins in the Michigan Mile Handicap, the Saratoga Special, the Canadian Maturity, the Bold Venture Handicap, Jacques Cartier Stakes, Swynford Stakes, and the Vigil Handicap. His head strong personality was his undoing at many of his races, causing Nearctic to not relax and settle his pace early, preferring to charge to the lead and go as fast as he could as long as he could.
The most successful rider to get Nearctic to rate in any sort of way was Hall of Fame rider Avellino Gomez. The energetic ex Cuban became one of the most beloved jockeys in Canada. He was a very strong and clever rider. However other jockeys were also engaged on Nearctic as Gomez was not always available. Nearctic won more races partnered with Gomez than all other riders combined.
Pete McCann was the only trainer to understand Nearctic. With his impeccable ability to get into a horse’s psyche, he could understand how to prepare the tough minded colt for his races. One can only wonder how Nearctic’s racing career might have turned out, had he been given complete autonomy.
Nearctic was retired from racing to begin the 1960 breeding season. Harry Green, stallion manager for Windfields Oshawa, was destined to become Nearctic’s new best friend, having already been a major influence in the new stallion’s life before he was born. Nearctic needed a firm but understanding hand. He could be a tough customer to deal with, but Green had the horsemanship and the innate understanding of how to gain a stallion’s trust when handling them. Green gave Nearctic the name “Nicky’, which the big stallion would always answer to.
Nearctic instantly became the most regally bred stallion in Canada at the time. His world class pedigree became a shot in the arm for not only Canadian breeders, but also to breeders beyond the border. The initial support was enthusiastic, but not overwhelming. However, with his first crop containing Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Northern Dancer, the stud career of Nearctic would be launched into the highest echelon within the breeding community.
As a sire Nearctic was very successful and highly influential. He would sire forty-nine stakes winners, 15% percent of his foals, in a fourteen year career as a stallion. His progeny were tough and fast, with many becoming very influential to future generations.
Of course when people recall Nearctic the first of his progeny named is the aforementioned Northern Dancer. This one fact is enough to hang the hat of any successful stallion, and dine out on the eternal prestige of being such a sire. However Nearctic was much more than a one hit wonder.
Icecapade, out of Shenanigans by Native Dancer, was a half brother to the immortal filly Ruffian, stakes winner Buckfinder, and top broodmare Laughter. Icecapade was no slouch as he was the winner of the William Du Pont Handicap, Saranac Stakes, Kelso Handicap, Stuyvesant Handicap, Nassau County Handicap and the Atlantic City Handicap. Icecapade later became a very productive and influential sire in his own right with the likes of Clever Trick, Hyperborean, Tiffany Ice, The Cool Virginian, Ice Cool, Zuppardo’s Love, Wonder’s Delight, Canadian champions Izvestia and Kingsbridge, and inaugural Breeder’s Cup Classic winner Wild Again among his seventy-three stakes winners (13% of total foals).
Wild Again and Clever Trick have been passing on the magic as successful sires themselves. This branch of the Nearctic sire line is still very prominent and in vogue today. The line includes leading Canadian sire Milwaukee Brew, a son of Wild Again. Clever Trick is the sire of Phone Trick, who in turn sired Eclipse Award horse of the year Favourite Trick, while Wild Again has sired Canadian champions Whisky Wisdom and Wilderness Song, the grand dam of Canadian horse of the year Up With The Birds.
Icecapade has also sired the dams of stakes winners Markofdistinction, Sister Act, Siberian Summer, Brought To Mind and champions Lady’s Secret and Fontainbleu.
Nonoalco was another classic winning son of Nearctic when he captured the 2000 Guineas in 1974. Nonoalco defeated a top class field in this race which included a future mile champion in Apalachee, as well as top crack miler Giacometti. Nonoalco also won the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois as a three year old. As a two year old Nonoalco captured the G1 Prix Morny and Prix de la Salamandre, piloted by Lester Piggott who stated that Nonoalco was the fastest two year old he had ever ridden. Nonoalco had some success as a sire in Japan, notably as a sire of top producing broodmares. Preakness Stakes winner Red Bullet is out of a daughter of Nonoalco.
Cool Reception was one of Nearctic’s fastest, but unfortunately ill-fated, of all his get. Out of the great broodmare Windy Answer by Windfields (the stallion), Cool Reception was a bright red chestnut with a wide blaze and one white sock on his left hind leg. He was the champion two year old in Canada after winning the Coronation Futurity, Cup And Saucer Stakes, Summer Stakes and Carlton Stakes. As a three year old he took the Fort Lauderdale Stakes and Marine Stakes before his entry in the 1967 Belmont Stakes against the great Damascus.
Cool Reception had the future legend beaten coming down the Belmont home straight, when he broke his right front foreleg two hundred yards from the finish line. The courageous colt finished the race on the severely damaged leg in second place to Damascus. Following a successful operation to repair the damaged limb, Cool Reception panicked when he saw the cast and broke his leg in different spot and had to be humanly euthanized as there was no way to save him. His tragic passing was a severe loss to breeding because both his sire and dam lines were noted as top sire producing families.
Nearctic was also the sire of Canadian Hall of Fame member Langcrest as well as multi stakes winners Bye And Near, Arctic Blizzard, Arctic Hills, Coco La Terreur, Fire ‘N Desire, Holarctic, James Bay, Cool Moon, North Sea, Pierlou, Briartic and Explodent. The latter two, and also stakes placed Police Car, went on to become sires of important stakes winners in North America.
The above list of the successful sons of Nearctic is quite impressive, however the daughters of the great stallion are not to be forgotten as there are many who won important races and/or have become very important broodmares which have established strong stakes producing families. Among the stakes winning females sired by Nearctic are Cold Comfort, Arctic Actress, Freeze The Secret, Ice Water, Mary Of Scotland, Mink Stole, Northern Queen, Northern Minx, Not Too Shy and Painted Pony.
The list of stakes producing broodmares sired by Nearctic is world class. His daughter Arctic Dancer, a full sister to Northern Dancer, was stakes placed in only two races. She finished second in the My Dear Stakes in her first start and then suffered a career ending injury in her second race. Arctic Dancer is the dam of the exceptional La Prevoyante, undefeated champion two year old filly in North America with a perfect twelve for twelve season in 1972. La Prevoyante won the Matron, Spinaway, Frizette, Selima, Princess Elizabeth, Colin, My Dear, Gardenia, Schuylerville and Fleur de Lys stakes races during her all conquering year. She later won the Quebec Derby and La Troienne Stakes at three with a second place in the Kentucky Oaks, and a third place to Square Angel in the Canadian Oaks. La Prevoyante died of a ruptured lung following her race in the Miss Florida Stakes. She is an honoured member of the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame.
Chilly by Nearctic, was a modest winner of one race, but made up for her lack of track success by producing three stakes winners and the dams of some influential Thoroughbreds. Chilly is a direct female line descendant of Windfields Farm foundation mare Nandi (third generation) and is the dam of stakes winners Cool Ted, Right Chilly and Impressive Lady, who in turn is the dam of three stakes winners herself. From this family of Chilly descend champions Bold Ruritania, Stage Flight, Archer’s Bay, Always An Angel and South African super sire Western Winter.
Arctic Fancy is the dam of Arctic Vixen, who in turn is the dam of leading Canadian sire Bold Executive. Christmas Wind is the dam of Arabia, dam of world class sire Red Ransom. Quiet Charm, a daughter of Tartan Farms foundation mare Cequillo, is the dam of Demure, the mother of leading sire Quiet American. Nearanna, a direct female line descendant of another Windfields foundation mare in Iribelle (third generation), produced Canadian champion Ben Fab and multi stakes producer La Bourrasque. Northern Queen, another direct descendant of Iribelle, won the Canadian Oaks and then produced stakes winners Against All Flags, Northern Monarch and Buckstopper.
There are more daughters of Nearctic such as Nearis, the dam of Canadian Racing Hall of Fame member Kennedy Road and Petrologist, the latter producing three stakes winners as a broodmare. These two are the only foals Nearis produced. Northern Minx produced multi stakes winners Lucky Conn and Connie Pat for Conn Smythe, a prominent Canadian owner/breeder who is famous as the original owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club. Another of Smythe’s very good Nearctic daughters was the aforementioned Not Too Shy, a three time divisional champion who is also the dam of multi stakes winner Lucky Colonel S.
Lady Known As Lou was zero for five in her racing life, but would produce stakes winner Loudrangle, who in turn became a foundation mare for the very successful Sam-Son Farms. Loudrangle is the dam of Canadian horse of the year Ruling Angel, champion three year old filly Tilt My Halo, as well as stakes winners No Louder, Dancing With Wings, Slew Of Angels and Tiffany Tam, the dam of champion three year old and Queen’s Plate winner Regal Intention.
Orchestrina by Nearctic has become another pivotal mare in the pedigrees of champions. Her daughter Chou Fleur is the dam of unraced Bon Debarras, who in turn produced three time champion Eternal Search, multi stakes winner Gone To Royalty and stakes placed Savethelastdance. The latter is the dam of Queen’s Plate winner Niigon a leading Canadian sire who has unfortunately passed away in 2014 due to a paddock accident.
Of all the fabulous mares sired by Nearctic, Nangela might be the most influential. Nangela descends directly from Sister Sarah (fifth generation) the second dam of her sire, which makes Nangela inbred to Sister Sarah 3×5. Nangela won the Carlton Stakes as a two year old against colts for her only stakes victory. However as a broodmare she would establish a foundation of world class proportions. Her first foal was Square Angel by Quadrangle. Square Angel became the champion three year old filly in Canada after her stellar year in which she won the Canadian Oaks, Nettie Handicap and the Fury Stakes. Square Angel would then continue the line of distaff stakes winners with the likes of Kamar, Dancing On A Cloud, Love Smitten and Stellarette.
Kamar would emulate her dam by winning the Canadian Oaks and being named as the champion three year old filly in her year. Kamar is the dam of G1 stakes winners Key To The Moon, Gorgeous, and Seaside Attraction, as well as stakes winner Hiaam. Seaside Attraction has produced G1 winners Golden Attraction and Cape Town, and graded stakes winners Cape Canaveral and Red Carnival. Stellarette has produced G1 stakes winner Cuddles and Nuryette, dam of successful sire Northern Afleet and G1 stakes winner Tap To Music, who in turn is the dam of graded stakes winner Bear’s Kid. Love Smitten is the dam of two time King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Swain.
Another branch of the Nangela female line is Dancing Angela, She is the dam of multi stakes winners Bejilla, Le Danseur and Regal Angela. The branch of Happy Vixen has produced multi stakes winners Warren’s Whistle and Minutes Away.
Nearctic was syndicated and subsequently transferred to Alliare Du Pont’s Woodstock Farm in Chesapeake Maryland in 1967, where he would live the rest of his life. With the presence of his great son Northern Dancer at Windfields in Oshawa, and the demand from top American breeders for the services of Nearctic, the decision was made to move him to Woodstock Farm. Northern Dancer also relocated in Maryland in 1969, but at the Windfields breeding centre which was adjacent to Woodstock in Chesapeake City. Here Northern Dancer firmly established himself as the premier stallion of the twentieth century.
Nearctic was a horse of commanding presence. He carried his head high, much like his maternal grand sire Hyperion. He was bred from equine nobility and had an air of regal quality about him. When he walked he pranced like a confident 16.0 hand stallion is supposed to. Nearctic’s coat colour of a very dark brown which looked almost black under certain light conditions, very much like his sire Nearco. He had much of Nearco’s temperament as well but did trust certain handlers with devoted loyalty.
Harry Green was his most trusted friend and when Green had learned of Nearctic’s failing health in Maryland, Green was still stationed in Ontario, he took a trip to visit the stallion for the last time. The great stallion had been suffering from lymphangitis in his left hind leg for many weeks. It was a touching and heart warming reunion between horse and human. Nearctic nussled his old friend after hobbling over to greet him looking for a treat, which of course Harry came prepared for with a pocket full of “Nicky’s“ favourite tasty snacks.
The importance of Nearctic in breeding is legendary. As the sire of Northern Dancer his place in history is cemented. As the sire of Icecapade he has a second strong tail male line that is still flourishing in today’s breeding. As the sire of so many top class broodmares, many of which have become foundation mares to world class Thoroughbred families, he has spread his excellent pedigree and royal bloodlines to champions the world over. The accolades to Nearctic, while overshadowed by his famous son, are still reverberant. He is a member of the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame and has a very important G1 grass stakes race run annually every year at Woodbine in his honour.
The regal Nearctic died on July 27, 1973 at Woodstock Farm in Maryland. He was only nineteen. He was a very fast strong minded horse with a tough disposition. Even though he sired many outstanding horses in his stud career he will always be remembered as the sire of Northern Dancer, which is more than any breeder could ever imagine in their wildest dreams.
Nearctic was the catalyst for Windfields Farm to become a world leader in breeding. A truly noble Thoroughbred and so very important to all Canadian racing enthusiasts.
(Photo courtesy of Windfields Farm)