10 Facts about Native Dancer

Updated: Jan 15


Native Dancer at Belmont Park in 1954. Photo from the Keeneland Library Morgan Collection. This image is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in print or electronically without written permission of the Keeneland Library.

Native Dancer is one of the most popular Thoroughbred racehorses to ever live. He was a champion on the racetrack and a superstar at stud. Get to know more about this iconic racehorse with these ten facts below:


1.) Native Dancer sired 44 stakes winners and was the broodmare sire of 84 stakes winners. He was very influential as a stallion and his bloodlines still reign in today's Thoroughbreds, especially because of his maternal grandsons Northern Dancer and Icecapade and son Rase A Native.

2.) Native Dancer is in the pedigree of both Affirmed and Alydar. Native Dancer’s son Raise A Native was the sire of Alydar. Raise A Native also sired Exclusive Native, who went on to sire Affirmed.

3.) The 1953 Kentucky Derby was the only loss of Native Dancer's career. He lost the race by a head to Dark Star after getting bumped at the start and racing wide in the far turn.

4.) Many people say that Native Dancer's loss in the Kentucky Derby can be contributed to the train he was transported to Churchill Downs on. That train crashed during its journey, throwing Native Dancer to the ground and leaving him with a swollen ankle. Despite this, he was still sound and able to run, though many question if he was able to run at his full-capacity.

5.) Native Dancer was on the cover of TIME Magazine’s May 1954 issue.

6.) Native Dancer loved cats and small dogs, but absolutely hated big dogs.

7.) Native Dancer was a huge television star because his dapple grey coat helped him stand out on the black and white TVs. In fact, the T.V. Guide ranked him as the second biggest television attraction next to Ed Sullivan.

8.) Fans treated Native Dancer like they would a rockstar. Before the Travers Stakes, Native Dancer was mobbed by a group of fans who pulled hairs from his mane and tail to take as souvenirs.

9.) Native Dancer was a very intelligent horse, but could be known to have a temper. Many times he bit grooms and clamped down on the boot of exercise riders to pull them right out of the saddle. Stud groom Joe Hall was the only one who truly knew how to handle the horse.

10.) There is a rumor that Native Dancer’s ghost haunts Churchill Downs, fitting considering that it was the only place he lost a race.



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