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Moment in Time

Northern Dancer wins Kentucky Derby Add to ...

May 2, 1964
Anyone could have bought Northern Dancer for $25,000 at Windfield Farms’ yearling sale. But the stocky bay colt was considered too small by the connoisseurs of horseflesh, and so owner E.P. Taylor was left to make the best of a Canadian-bred animal who was mocked as looking more like a quarter-horse than a thoroughbred. Looks counted for nothing at Churchill Downs. The short-limbed Northern Dancer may have needed 100 more of his choppy strides to get around the 1.6 km dirt track but still surged to the finish in a record-breaking two minutes flat — convincing fans back home that he’d beaten America’s best with all-Canadian heart and determination. In his short career, he never finished out of the money but his greatest success was as a sire of champions -- most of them compact and tough, just like the Derby winner.  

Northern Dancer ahead of Hill Rise races to the finish line at Churchill Downs to win the Kentucky Derby May 2, 1964. Photo by Jerry Cooke



Jockey Willie Hartack leads Northern Dancer to victory at the 90th running of the Kentucky Derby May 2, 1964. Coming in second is Hill Rise, ridden by Willie Shoemaker, followed by Roman Brother, at rail; The Scoundrel, and Quadrangle, from left. Photo by The Associated Press



Northern Dancer, left with the white nose streak, is running wide coming out of the back stretch while Hill Rise, far left, strains to keep up at Churchill Downs May 2, 1964. Photo by The Associated Press



Jockey Bill Hartack on Northern Dancer after winning the 1964 Kentucky Derby May 2, 1964. Photo by The Courier-Journal



A contact sheet by photographer Jerry Cooke shows owner E.P. Taylor and jockey Bill Hartack on Northern Dancer making their way to the winner's circle after winning the 90th running of the Kentucky Derby May 2, 1964. Photos by Jerry Cooke



Owner E.P. Taylor holds the reins with jockey Bill Hartack and Northern Dancer after winning the 90th running of the Kentucky Derby May 2, 1964. Photo by Michael Burns Sr.



Jockey Bill Hartack meets the press on Derby Day 1962, two years before riding Northern Dancer to win the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 1964. Photo by Gean A. Baron, The Courier-Journal

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