Sword Dancer

For the act of sword dancing, see Sword dance.
Sword Dancer
Sire Sunglow
Grandsire Sun Again
Dam Highland Fling
Damsire By Jimminy
Sex Stallion
Foaled 1956
Country United States
Colour Chestnut
Breeder Brookmeade Stable
Owner Brookmeade Stable
Trainer J. Elliott Burch
Record 39: 15-7-4
Earnings $829,610
Major wins

Mayflower Stakes (1958)
Stepping Stone Purse (1959)
Jockey Club Gold Cup (1959)
Metropolitan Handicap (1959)
Monmouth Handicap (1959)
Travers Stakes (1959)
Woodward Stakes (1959, 1960)
Suburban Handicap (1960)
Grey Lag Handicap (1960)

American Classic Race wins:
Kentucky Derby 2nd (1959)
Preakness Stakes 2nd (1959)
Belmont Stakes (1959)
U.S. Champion 3-Yr-Old Colt (1959)
DRF U.S. Champion Male Handicap Horse (1959)
United States Horse of the Year (1959)
United States Racing Hall of Fame (1977)
#53 - Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century
Sword Dancer Handicap at Saratoga Race Course
Last updated on June 23, 2010

Sword Dancer (April 24, 1956 November 16, 1984) was an American Hall of Fame Champion Thoroughbred racehorse. He was the leading American colt of his generation and was voted United States Horse of the Year in 1959.


Sword Dancer was a small chestnut horse bred and owned by Isabel Dodge Sloane's Brookmeade Stable. He was trained by J. Elliott Burch.

Racing career

Sword Dancer won three times in fourteen starts at age two. At age three, he began to develop and in the 1959 Kentucky Derby was beaten by a nose by Tomy Lee in a stretch duel. When Tomy Lee did not compete in the Preakness Stakes, his jockey Bill Shoemaker rode Sword Dancer to a second-place finish behind Royal Orbit. In the Belmont Stakes on June 13, Sword Dancer got the better of what was described as a "bitter stretch duel"[1] with Bagdad to win by three-quarters of a length on a muddy track. The colt also won a number of other major races, including a defeat of Hillsdale in the Woodward Stakes. He also defeated 1958 Horse Of The Year Round Table for a second time (he was third in the Woodward), beating him by seven lengths in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Aqueduct Racetrack.[2] His performance throughout 1959 earned him Horse of the Year honors from all three of the major awarding bodies.[3]

After a slow start at age four, Sword Dancer came on to win four important races out of his twelve starts. In one of his most notable performances, he won a second Woodward Stakes in track record time of 2:01.2 in September, beating a field that included Bald Eagle and T. V. Lark.[4]

Stud record

An ankle injury in the Man O' War Stakes ended his racing career and he was retired to stand at stud at Darby Dan Farm. Sword Dancer notably sired the Hall of Fame colt Damascus, and the filly Lady Pitt, the 1966 American Champion Three-Year-Old Filly. He was later sent to a breeding farm in France, and continued stud duties through 1976. Almost exactly 25 years from his Jockey Gold Cup win, which ended his Eclipse Award Year, he died in his sleep peacefully of natural causes at 28 years old.


In 1977, Sword Dancer was inducted into the United States' National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. His portrait by equine artist Richard Stone Reeves can be seen in the museum's collection.


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