BORN: near Oshawa, Ontario • 27 May 1961
DIED: Chesapeake City, Maryland • 16 November 1990
Once upon a time on a farm outside a small town in a northern land called Canada, a brand new baby came into the world. A rich, important man called Mr Taylor owned the farm where the baby was born. He named the newborn Northern Dancer. The year was 1961, and there were high hopes that one day he would grow up to be a racer, just like his father and mother.
As he grew, Dancer trained and trained, but not many people thought he would ever be very fast. The reason? He was too small. “There’s no way he’ll ever run fast,” said the man who looked after him. “He’s short, and chunky…and SLOW!” The words stung Dancer. More than anything, he wanted to run fast.
He practised running every day, often with other young¬ sters at the farm where they lived. It was no use: the more Dancer trained, the more it seemed he would never run fast. This made him angry. One day, when he was out on a long drive, Dancer lost his temper and hurt one of his feet. The man who looked after him cleaned his foot and bandaged it, but the man was annoyed.
Before long, the man talked to Mr Taylor, and Mr Taylor made his decision: “Let us get rid of Dancer,” he said. “He will never run fast. We will sell him to anyone who wants him.”By then it was 1962, and on the appointed day Dancer and the others that Mr Taylor did not want were taken to be sold. As the day went on, many of them were sold and taken away to live in faraway places.
Many people came to look at Dancer to see if they wanted to buy him. But they were not impressed: “He is so small,” they said. “He is not at all like his father or mother.”By the end of the day, nobody had bought Dancer, and Mr Taylor had to take him back to his farm.
“Nobody wanted Dancer,” Mr Taylor told his wife when he returned home that night. “I guess we will let him run some races anyway. I don’t think he’s very fast, but we’ll see.”Once again, Dancer was angry, but this time he kept his anger inside. “I’ll show them,” he said to himself. “I’ll show them that I can run fast—faster than anybody in the WORLD!”
Dancer’s first race came in August 1963. He was the smallest, but he won easily. Nobody was even close. A few weeks later he won again. In the next few months, Dancer ran seven races and he won five of them. The man who looked after him was not angry with him any more: I thought you were too small,” he told Dancer one day, but even though you are small, you are very fast.”
Mr Taylor was watching Dancer’s races, and later in 1963 he decided to take him to the United States. Dancer was nervous—after all, the racers in the United States were very famous, and most of them were known to be very fast. “Don’t worry,” said the man who looked after him. Just run as fast as you can.”
And that’s what Dancer did. He won one race in the United States, and then another. Suddenly, he was famous. Many people wanted to take his picture. Mr Taylor was happy, and Northern Dancer was happy too.When he turned three years old, Dancer started going to some of the most famous races in the world.
All the fastest racers in the world wanted to win them. There was lots of pressure on Dancer: now, all of Canada was cheering him on. People said he was the fastest racer that ever came from Canada. Mr Taylor tried to relax him: “Just race as fast as you can.”
On 2 May 1964 Northern Dancer won the Kentucky Derby, the most famous race in the world. He was the first Canadian to win the race, and no one had ever raced it faster. He won the Preakness, another big race. Then he lost a race called the Belmont Stakes. But Mr Taylor was happy: “You have done very well. You are a great racer, but now it is time to go home.”
Back at home, there was one more race. In Canada, millions of people wanted to see Northern Dancer, the racer they had heard so much about. At a famous race called the Queen’s Plate, they stood and cheered for Dancer for a long time. Now, nobody said he was too small. Nobody said he was too slow. After the cheers stopped, Dancer won the race.
All the races had made Dancer tired. Mr Taylor decided that Dancer deserved a long rest. He built a special place on the farm for him and told the man who looked after him to give Dancer anything he wanted.
It was a nice, comfortable life. Many people came to visit: they all wanted to see the fastest racer Canada had ever had. Some people said that because of Northern Dancer, many more people were now interested in racing. A lot of people said Northern Dancer was one of the most important Canadians ever.
Northern Dancer had many, many wives and many, many children. It made him very happy when some of his children grew up to be very fast. Northfield, True North, and Nijinsky were just some of his children that were great racers. But none of them was as fast as Northern Dancer.
When he was quite old, Dancer moved to the United States, just like many older Canadians do. He wanted to go there to relax and enjoy the nice weather. Mr Taylor built him a cozy place there, and Dancer continued to have more children. He rested, dreamed about all those glorious races, and lived happily ever after.