When it comes to the Canadian horse racing scene, there is no doubt that Nijinsky will continue to go down in history as potentially the greatest ever. The Canadian colt with three white feet by Northern Dancer out of Flaming Page (by Bull Page) was bred at E. P. Taylor’s Windfields Farm in Oshawa, Ontario, and born in 1967. He was destined for greatness and was purchased as a yearling for for $84,000 by industrialist Charles W. Engelhard Jr. and shipped to Ireland to be trained by Vincent O’Brien. This proved to be a successful move, as the horse showed his class from the outset.
Much attention was put on Nijinsky as he began to produce an air of invincibility even at the early stage of his career. He won his first four races in Ireland and was already starting to attract attention from the racing world. This then led to support coming in for the horse, with punters expecting more success. That proved to be money well placed, as he rounded out his juvenile season with a victory in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
The following May he returned to contest the 2000 Guineas, which also happens to be the opening race of the ‘Triple Crown’ in UK flat racing. He produced a stunning performance to win effortlessly, with many believing this could be the horse to finally win another Triple Crown, which would mean victories in the Derby and St. Leger that season. Nijinsky barely had to be pushed to win the Guineas, so it was clear that he was a real star of racing at the time.
Nijinsky – 2,000 Guineas 1970 👑 pic.twitter.com/yuvIM74wdV
— Racing Tales (@Racing_Tales) April 15, 2020
Nijinsky then proved to be all class and produced a performance to back up his Guineas victory. He came through a high-class field at Epsom to impressively land the Derby by two-and-a-half lengths, as all roads now led to the St. Leger and the Triple Crown victory. Prior to Nijinsky there had only been 14 horses since 1853 to achieve the feat of winning these three races and no horse since Bahram in 1935, which further backed up the challenge for Nijinsky going into the St. Leger.
Prior to the third leg of the Triple Crown, Nijinsky followed up with further victories in both the Irish Derby at the Curragh and then against the older generation in the King George at Ascot. He was becoming a real legend of the sport and was heading into the St. Leger with high expectations of victory and it would come as a major shock if he was beaten. He suffered a training setback when he contracted a bout of ringworm which led to him losing much of his hair. Despite this, he recovered (reportedly thanks to a diet including raw eggs and Irish stout) and was able to take his place in the St. Leger and duly obliged by winning by just under a length and landing short odds in the process.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) September 12, 2020
This meant Nijinsky won the Triple Crown and no horse since in the past 50 years has been able to do so. Camelot came closest back in 2012 when losing the final leg at Doncaster, as he finished second to Encke. This shows just how much of a star Nijinsky was and why he remains one of the greatest in the history of the sport.
After 11 victories in succession, the horse was beaten in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in Paris and then again in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket. He appeared a diminished force, but it does not take away from his achievements and he will remain one of the greatest horses in the history of UK racing. He was retired to stud at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky under the name Nijinsky II, where he sired over 150 stakes/group winners prior to his death in 1992 including Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Famer Sky Classic. Nijinsky remains a legend today and has been the subject of books and a movie.
The success of Nijinsky has no doubt helped push the popularity of the sport across Canada. You only have to look here, as more and more sites have become available that offer bonuses and odds for punters to get involved in many of the top Canadian races taking place each year. It is a market that continues to evolve, and it will now be interesting to see when the next champion emerges from the Canadian racing scene.