Native Dancer

Native Dancer

Native Dancer
Sire Polynesian
Grandsire Unbreakable
Dam Geisha
Damsire Discovery
Sex Stallion
Foaled 1950
Country United States
Colour Grey
Breeder Alfred G. Vanderbilt II
Owner Alfred G. Vanderbilt II
Racing colors: Cerise, white diamonds, cerise, sleeves, white cap.
Trainer William C. Winfrey
Record 22: 21-1-0
Earnings $785,240
Major wins

Hopeful Stakes (1952)
Flash Stakes (1952)
Grand Union Hotel Stakes (1952)
East View Stakes (1952)
Youthful Stakes (1952)
Futurity Stakes (1952)
Saratoga Special Stakes (1952)
Travers Stakes (1953)
Wood Memorial (1953)
Arlington Classic (1953)
American Derby (1953)
Dwyer Stakes (1953)
Withers Stakes (1953)
Gotham Stakes (1953)
Metropolitan Handicap (1954)

American Classic Race wins:
Preakness Stakes (1953)
Belmont Stakes (1953)
Kentucky Derby 2nd (1953)
U.S. Champion 2-Yr-Old Colt (1952)
TSB/TRA United States Horse of the Year (1952)
U.S. Champion 3-Yr-Old Colt (1953)
United States Horse of the Year (1954)
U.S. Racing Hall of Fame (1963)
#7 - Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century

Native Dancer (March 27, 1950 – November 16, 1967), nicknamed the Grey Ghost, was one of the most celebrated and accomplished Thoroughbred racehorses in history and was the first horse made famous through the medium of television. As a two-year-old, he was undefeated in his nine starts for earnings of $230,495, a record for a two-year-old. During his three years of racing, he won 21 of 22 starts.


  • Background 1
  • Racing record 2
  • Stud record 3
  • Honors 4
  • Pedigree 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7


Native Dancer was foaled at Scott Farm near Lexington, Kentucky. He was raised and trained at owner Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Jr.'s Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, Maryland. Native Dancer was a big, solid grey horse by the 1945 Preakness Stakes winner, Polynesian, out of Geisha by Discovery. Geisha also produced Native Dancer's half-sister Orientation; she was the dam of three stakes winners: Initiate ($73,311), Undulation ($52,714) and Citizenship.[1]

Racing record

In his first season of racing, Native Dancer won all nine starts. He was voted the Daily Racing Form.[4]

In his three-year-old campaign, Native Dancer received a great deal of media attention leading up to the 1953 Kentucky Derby. He won the Gotham Mile and the prestigious Wood Memorial, but in the Kentucky Derby, he lost for the only time in his career. Although jockey Eric Guerin was roundly criticized in the press ("he took that colt everywhere on the track except the ladies' room" was one comment[5]), Native Dancer was fouled twice during the race and lost narrowly to Dark Star. To date, Native Dancer is one of only two "Dual Classic Winners" to come from the State of Maryland (the other was Kauai King, who won the 1966 Kentucky Derby and Preakness). Native Dancer is also one of only eleven Maryland-bred colts to win a US Triple Crown race.

Following his loss at Churchill Downs, Native Dancer won the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, and the Travers Stakes, a feat accomplished until then only by Duke of Magenta, Man o' War, and Whirlaway, and by only two other horses since. Native Dancer never lost again that season and was named Champion Three Year Old Colt.

In 1954, Native Dancer won all three races he entered and was scheduled to be shipped to France to compete in the prestigious Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. However, he was retired as a result of a recurring foot injury with a record of 21 wins out of 22 lifetime races. Native Dancer was voted the United States Horse of the Year for 1954, beating High Gun by 19 votes to 11 in the Daily Racing Form poll[6] and winning the TRA award for the second time.[7] He appeared on the May 31 cover of Time magazine. Many consider the "Grey Ghost of Sagamore" to have been the first Thoroughbred television star and TV Guide ranked him as a top icon of the era".[5]

Stud record

At stud, Native Dancer sired 43 stakes winners from 306 foals and is an ancestor of countless modern champions. His tail-male descendants, particularly through his grandson Mr. Prospector, have dominated the US Triple Crown races. He is also damsire of Northern Dancer, arguably the most influential stallion of the 20th century.

Among Native Dancer's offspring are:


A statue of Native Dancer in Saratoga Springs' Centennial Park

Native Dancer was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1963. He died on November 16, 1967, following the removal of a tumor on the wall of the small intestine and was buried at Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, Maryland.[9]

In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th century, Native Dancer was ranked #7. In the Associated Press rankings of the greatest racehorses of the 20th century, he was ranked #3, tied with Citation, behind only Man o' War and Secretariat.


Pedigree of Native Dancer (USA), grey stallion, 1950
Polynesian (USA)
Sickle Phalaris
Blue Grass Prince Palatine
Hour Glass
Black Polly
Polymelian Polymelus
Black Queen Pompey
Black Maria
Geisha (USA)
Display Fair Play
Ariadne Light Brigade
John P. Grier Whisk Broom II
La Chica Sweep
La Grisette (Family: 5-f)[10]

See also


  1. ^ Ahnert (editor in chief), Rainer L. (1970). Thoroughbred Breeding of the World. Germany: Pozdun Publishing. pp. 426–7. 
  2. ^ "Native Dancer Horse of the Year". St. Petersburg Times. 1952-12-20. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  3. ^ Roach, James (1952-12-05). "VANDERBILT COLT IS HORSE OF YEAR". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  4. ^ "Name One Count Horse of the Year". Greensburg Daily Tribune. 1952-11-24. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  5. ^ a b Simon, Mary (2003). Racing Through the Century: The Story of Thoroughbred Racing in America. BowTie Press.  
  6. ^ "Native Dancer Horse of Year". St. Joseph News-Press. 1954-11-27. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  7. ^ Roach, James (1954-12-03). "Native Dancer Named Horse of Year". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  8. ^ "Native Dancer (USA) - offspring". Australian Stud Book. Australian Turf Club Limited and Victoria Racing Club Limited. Retrieved 9 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Montgomery, E.S, "The Thoroughbred", Arco, New York, 1973 ISBN 0-668-02824-6
  10. ^ Morris, Simon; Tesio Power 2000 - Stallions of the World, Syntax Software
  • Boyd, Eva Jolene (2000), Native Dancer, Lexington, KY: .  
  • .