Don’t let this famous race horse’s name fool you. Native Dancer might sound like a small, dainty creature, but he wasn’t. He was a strong, sturdy, grey horse. His nickname, the Grey Ghost, might be a more fitting name for the beast who was undefeated in his nine starts at the young age of two.

Race Horse History: Native Dancer’s Life and Legacy

Born to run wild

Native Dancer was foaled to be great. He was born in 1950 near Lexington, Kentucky by Polynesian, an award-winning stud. He was raised by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt II, of the well-known Vanderbilt family. Vanderbilt was a huge proponent of thoroughbred racing.

Native Dancer’s career started off bright after earning an unheard of $230,495 in undefeated starts at the age of two. He was also voted American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt in 1952. Other horse racing magazines dubbed him “horse of the year.”

Made for television

Native Dancer was the first famous race horse to benefit from television exposure. After winning the Gotham Mile and Wood Memorial, the media could not get enough of this three-year-old horse. You can imagine the sort of bets and expectations people had for Native Dancer, a horse known for having never lost a race once he made it to the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, he lost to Dark Star.

He would go on to lose Churchill Down, but never again during that season. His prestigious wins include:

  • Preakness Stakes
  • Belmont Stakes
  • Travers Stakes
  • Kentucky Derby
  • Gotham Stakes

Native Dancer was retired in 1954 after a repeat foot injury. He left the live race horsing track with a record of 21 wins out of 22 total races. Not bad, not bad at all.

Native Dancer descendants

After he retired, Native Dancer was named Horse of the Year in 1954. During his career as a stud, he fathered many prosperous descendants. You might recognize some famous names as Native Dancer’s descendants:

  • Hula Dancer
  • Shenanigans
  • Kauai King
  • Natalma
  • Raise a Native

See History in the Making

Want to see how champions are made? Visit a live horse racing track. Come down to opening day at Ellis Park on July 2. We can’t wait to see you there!