TORONTO -- Northern Dancer, the 1964 Kentucky Derby winner who became the first Canadian-bred horse to win the Run for the Roses, was put to death Friday at age 29 after a severe bout of colic.
The feisty champion, whose small but muscular frame became an industry prototype, was also a top breeder, siring a record 143 stakes winners.
Charles Taylor, president of Windfields Farms, headquartered in Oshawa, Ontario, said the horse developed colic Thursday night. Northern Dancer appeared to rally at times, but the decision was made to end his suffering.
Northern Dancer was put to death at 6:15 a.m. EST at the Windfields operation in Chesapeake City, Md., where he was retired and bred until 1987. Taylor said the horse will be buried in Oshawa in the next few days at a private ceremony.
His death comes one day after that of Alydar, the great sire who waged legendary duels with Triple Crown winner Affirmed in 1978.
'He put Canadian racing and breeding on the map,' Taylor said of Northern Dancer. 'He had a lot of spirit, heart and pride. He knew he was still No. 1 and got annoyed if we looked at stallions in nearby stalls. He knew he was No. 1 and he couldn't see why we'd want to look at anyone else.'
Northern Dancer was born May 27, 1961, to Nearctic and Natalma at Winfields Farms in Oshawa. He was initially unpopular with track grooms, who had difficulty breaking him.
In 1964, Northern Dancer won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the Derby and Preakness, but failed to capture the thoroughbred racing's final jewel when he finished third in the Belmont Stakes.
His Derby time of two minutes flat stood as a record until Secretariat shattered the mark in 1973.
Northern Dancer had an equally impressive record in Canada, winning the Queen's Plate in 1964, before a bowed tendon forced retirement.
Northern Dancer won often in Canada as a 2-year-old. His first big triumph in the United States came in the Remsen Stakes at Belmont Park in 1963. He won the Flamingo and Flordia derbies and a big test at Churchill Downs before scoring in the Kentucky Derby.
Northern Dancer sired European champion Nijinsky II and several English Derby winners, including The Minstrel and Sadler's Wells, a leading European sire.