If you missed the Northern Dancer edition of Stallion Dynasties at Past the Wire you can read it here:
Stallion Dynasties: Northern Taste
By Kaitlin Free
Often in life there is someone quietly doing their work in the background and not getting the same recognition as others. Whether it be race, gender, creed, social status, or geographical location, sometimes barriers to that deserved recognition present themselves. Sports are often a place where this unfortunately is a common occurrence. Horse racing is no exception and it is our responsibility as industry members to educate the public about such hidden gems. As we explore the many branches and directions of the Northern Dancer sire line, it is very evident that these are well known horses. Most involved in horse racing are very much aware of the breed shaping capabilities this line has had over time, but what if I told you that this particular stallion’s story was virtually unheard of? Quietly of course, he is one of Northern Dancer’s most important sons.
Born and bred on the hallowed grounds of Windfields Farm in Ontario, a shiny, chestnut colt with an unusual blaze by Northern Dancer was ready to take on the world. At the time of his birth, the colt’s sire was beginning his ascent to the highest levels a stallion could reach. The colt’s dam was the graded stakes winning Lady Victoria, a daughter of Victoria Park. Lady Victoria was known for more than just being the dam of this future G1 winner. She was also the dam of Secretariat’s first foal. Lady Victoria was a sturdy mare from blue blood. She was out of Lady Angela, the most prized mare ever owned by E.P. Taylor and widely known as the most important mare in Canadian racing history. Lady Angela was the foundation mare of Windfields Farm, producing the great stallion Nearctic – the father of Northern Dancer.
The pairing of Northern Dancer and Lady Victoria was a surprising one. Lady Victoria is technically Northern Dancer’s “aunt” as she is a half sister to his sire. E.P. Taylor had discovered a secret in thoroughbred breeding that was still a few decades away from going mainstream. A horse inbred to a lucrative mare such as Lady Angela usually perform exceptional on the track. This copper colt had a double dose of some royal blood. His birth was particularly special to the Taylor family as he was the true definition of a homebred. His first and second generation were all owned or bred by Windfields Farm.
After spending his first year at home in Canada, this prized colt was soon headed overseas. Consigned by his owner’s Windfields Farm, he was entered into the 1972 Saratoga Yearling Sale. He was purchased by a private agent for the group Thoroughbred Productions for a price of $100,000 ($600,000 today when adjusted for inflation). Thoroughbred Productions was acting on behalf of Teruya Yoshida, who had purchased the colt for his father Zenya Yoshida. The Yoshida empire began in 1932 after the family patriarch Zensuke Yoshida ran his first horse in the inaugural Japanese Derby. At the time of the purchase, the family’s dominance was in full swing. The grouped dubbed the “Geniuses” must have had an inkling of what was in store for their operation. Their search for international interests began with this colt, as they perhaps always had a taste for Western bloodstock. Thus, Northern Taste was a fantastic find of many to come.
Instead of racing in Japan where his owner’s leading stable was, the Yoshida family elected to race Northern Taste elsewhere. Northern Taste was placed in the care of John Cunnington Jr. at Great Stables in France. The Cunnington family had ran a premier stable for generations. With the addition of Northern Taste to his barn, John Cunnington soon found a valuable client in the Yoshidas. They would intrust several more horses in Cunnington’s care after Northern Taste, including star runner Real Shadai.
Northern Taste made his racing debut at age two in 1973. He was an effective juvenile, winning the G3 Prix Thomas Byron and the G3 Prix Eclipse as well as being one of the high weight 2YO’s that season in France. Northern Taste was certainly a horse that became better at three. He made his 3YO debut in April of 1974 taking the G3 Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte, a track he especially liked. Northern Taste’s connections also thought that their colt had turned a corner as a sophomore, and decided to target the English Classics with him. He ran in both the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby, finishing a good 4th and 5th respectively.
After fair performances in England, Northern Taste returned to his home base in France. Following a strong 3rd in the G2 Prix Eugene Adam, Northern Taste’s connections realized just how effective their horse could be. His trainer and ownership group decided to drop Northern Taste down in trip to a mile. That September he ran an incredible 2nd in the prestigious Prix du Moulin de Longchamp to Mount Hagen. Mount Hagen was the highest rated 3YO in France at the time with a Timeform rating of 127. Northern Taste had finally found his best stride and was set to run his last race of the season. He was entered in the G1 Prix de La Floret at Longchamp in October at an even shorter distance of 7 furlongs. Northern Taste was much the best and scored the biggest win of his career and the only G1 to his credit.
He returned to the track at age four in 1975, but encountered especially tough competition and had several lackluster performances. Despite adversity, Northern Taste still had a fighting spirit and would go out victorious the G3 Prix du Pin that fall at Longchamp. He was retired soon after and was set to begin stud duty at age five.
With a pedigree that could appeal to anyone in the world Northern Taste could have retired anywhere. He would have been incredibly popular in both North America and Europe. Instead he was to go to a land where no North American stallion had gone before, Japan.
Following his retirement in the fall of 1975, Zenya Yoshida imported Northern Taste to the family’s large scale stud farm, Shadai Stallion Station. Shadai Farm is located in the small town of Shiraoi on the island of Hokkaido. Shadai Farm started with what is known as the Shadai Group consisting of Zenya Yoshida and his three sons, Katsumi, Haruya, and Teruya. For years, the Yoshida family and their collective farms have been known to have the most coveted broodmares and stallions. At this farm Northern Taste would be treated like a king and would have the top pick of the best mares in Japan.
Northern Taste has long been described by experts as the first truly great stallion to stand in Japan. He was a flashy looking horse, with a blaze that his owners called “ghostly” and often said the haunting blaze attributed to his bargain yearling price. His blaze extended over his left eye and gave him white eyelashes. “Horses do not run with their eyes nor their blazes,” say the Yoshidas. His flashiness also included a pair of long, white socks, one on his right front and one on his back left. Northern Taste’s flair joined a long list of accolades that made him such a popular stallion. Not only did he have a great race record and a world class pedigree, he was a kind horse. He had a fire in his heart on the racetrack like his father but was good with people. Most sons of Northern Dancer were known as pleasant horses to be around and Northern Taste was no exception. He was polite to his mares and was certainly an easy stallion to keep. According to the Yoshidas, one of the best things about Northern Taste at stud was his health. He was careful not to injure himself and stayed out of trouble. He had a particularly healthy immune system as well, rarely ever catching a cold and lived his whole life without having a single intestinal problem.
Northern Taste progeny began to dominate Japanese racing from the moment they stepped on the track. His first crop was born in 1977, and first stepped onto the track in 1979. In that first crop was one of the top horses Northern Taste would sire, Amber Shadai. Amber Shadai was a fantastic runner and became especially talented later in his career. He captured the Arima Kinen, known as the Grand Prix and the most popular race in Japan at age four in 1981. Amber Shadai raced until age six and won many other stakes including the Meguro Kinen and the prestigious Tenno Sho. While Amber Shadai was in the midst his racing career, superstar filly Dyna Carle was just getting started. Dyna Carle was a fantastic juvenile and took home the award for Japanese Champion 2YO Filly in 1982. Her talent reached even greater heights at age three where she captured the coveted Yushun Himba, the Japanese Oaks. She hit the board in all three legs of the Fillies Triple Crown and earned her second championship in 1983, Japanese Champion 3YO Filly.
In that same year of 1983 the best foal sired by Northern Taste was born. Dyna Gulliver showed promise at two but exploded at age three. His performances were overwhelming, his most noteworthy being his victories in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) and the Arima Kinen. He also ran a credible second that year in the Kikuka Sho, the Japanese St. Leger. Dyna Gulliver’s accolades that year earned him 1986 Japanese Champion 3YO Colt and Japanese Horse of the Year. From the same crop as Dyna Gulliver came the filly Dyna Actress. Dyna Actress excelled as an older mare, winning or hitting the board in many stakes against the males including strong on the board finishes in the Japan Cup and the Yasuda Kinen. Dyna Actress was crowned Japanese Champion Older Mare in both 1987 and 1988. Northern Taste progeny excelled both on the flat and over the jumps. His son Big Taste, sired in his last crop, won multiple G1’s over fences. He was awarded Japanese Champion Steeplechase Horse in 2003. Northern Taste progeny could do anything, go long, short, or high. Other notable horses sired by Northern Taste : Adorable, Air Deja Vu, Big Shori, Disco Hall, Dyna Fairy, Dyna Letter, Dyna Shoot, Fashion Show, Gallop Dyna, Global Dyna, Inter Flag, Matikanetannhauser, Northern Driver, Northern Rainbow, Samani Beppin, Scarlet Bouquet, Shadai Sophia, and Slew O’ Dyna.
Most of the male offspring Northern Taste produced were lucky enough to inherit their father’s calm temperament. Few had to be gelded, and most of his star colts made it to the breeding shed. Top sons Amber Shadai and Dyna Gulliver were among those to enter stud as well as Gallop Dyna, and Inter Flag. Unfortunately, Northern Taste’s sons did not pass on those coveted genes of talent to their offspring. Aside from a few lower level stakes winners, none of them were productive in the breeding shed. The direct sire line of Northern Taste completely died out with Dyna Gulliver, who passed away in 2012 at age 29.
While he may not have been a sire of sires, Northern Taste did give his daughters everything he had. He was well known for being a strong sire of fillies and had many female champions to show for it. His girls did not disappoint and they were also productive as broodmares. One of the best was Scarlet Bouquet, a top runner and a blue hen in retirement. Scarlet Bouquet is the dam of top runners Daiwa Major and Daiwa Scarlet. Daiwa Major was a top notch runner at three, securing the Satsuki Sho, the Japanese 2,000 Guineas. However as good as he was as a sophomore, he reached a new level as an older horse. He had incredible seasons at age five and six, capturing the Autumn Tenno Sho, Yasuda Kinen, Mainichi Okan, and two editions of the Mile Championship. Daiwa Major was awarded Japanese Champion Sprinter and Miler in both 2006 and 2007. He also has kept the family legacy alive, leading all Japanese freshman sires in 2011. Daiwa Major’s ¾ sister, Daiwa Scarlet was perhaps even better than her brother. She was a force at age three, taking two legs of the Japanese Triple Crown, the Oka Sho and the Shuka Sho. That same season she also took the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup, securing the 2007 Japanese Champion 3YO Filly honors. Daiwa Scarlet’s dominance continued to age four when she won the 2008 Arima Kinen.
Northern Taste is so prolific by his daughters and granddaughters that he appears in many Japanese runners’ pedigrees. By his daughter Sakura Hagoromo, she produced 1994 Japanese Champion Sprinter and Miler Sakura Bakushin O. While he was not especially productive at stud, Sakura Bakushin O is known for being the damsire of recent Japanese legend Kitasan Black. Another key direct descendant from the Northern Taste female line is the Japanese Triple Crown winner and super horse Orfevre. Electro Art, a daughter of Northern Taste, is his grand dam. By just these two superstars alone, Northern Taste’s potency as a broodmare sire has shattered all ceilings. Other top Japanese runners to descend from Northern Taste’s female line : Shonan Pandora, Screen Hero, Gold Actor, Gold Ship, Stay Gold, Dream Journey, Maurice, Duramente, Rulership, Kiseki, Let’s Go Donki, and Le Vent Se Leve.
Northern Taste continued to go strong at stud well into his advanced age. He wasn’t pensioned until age 28 in 1999. When the curtain closed on his stallion career, Northern Taste had truly left his mark on the breed. He was Japanese Champion Sire 1982-1992 a full 11 year run that would be snapped by fellow Shadai stallion Real Shadai. Northern Taste was awarded Champion Broodmare Sire on more occasions than that, dominating the rankings throughout his life. In all, he sired 92 stakes winners, a record that stood for nearly 20 years.
True to the Northern Dancer nature, Northern Taste lived his best life into advanced age. He enjoyed time as a pensioner for five years until age 33 when it became extremely difficult for the old stallion to get around. A hard decision was made to let go of the horse that started it all for Shadai Farm. Northern Taste was euthanized on December 11, a few weeks before he would turn 34.
If you ask the Yoshida’s about what Northern Taste meant to them, to this day they still beam with pride. His success laid the foundations for Shadai Stallion Station and helped the business flourish beyond measure. Teruya Yoshida has always said “Northern Taste bought all of the stallions and broodmares that we have.” Of those stallions Northern Taste played an assist with, the most important was the stallion that the Yoshidas purchased to succeed Northern Taste’s throne, and boy did he do just that and more. But that’s another story for another time.
Next Installment – Stallion Dynasties : Sovereign Dancer