Canadian-bred and trained horses have an esteemed record in the Kentucky Derby, with some of the brightest stars throughout the history of the Triple Crown race having competed North of the border or bred in Canada before completing a memorable success in the Kentucky Derby.

There have been just two Canadian-bred winners of the Derby throughout history, but there has been no shortage of superstars that have started their career in the country before later achieving major success on tracks in the United States.

Northern Dancer

It would be challenging to start anywhere else other than the first Canadian-bred winner of the Derby – Northern Dancer. The runner became the first Canadian winner of the Kentucky Derby in 1964 after landing a famous success for breeder Edward P. Taylor.

His dominance on the track was clear to see before the Triple Crown race after he was named the Canadian Champion Two-Year-Old after winning both the Coronation Futurity and Summer Stakes in his home country. Northern Dancer continued to show his quality on track by landing victory in the Preakness Stakes, but he would ultimately come up short in his Triple Crown bid after finishing third in the Belmont Stakes.

However, his career would achieve a final swansong in front of his home fans with a victory in the Queen’s Plate.

Northern Dancer’s Derby Winners

While not technically Canadian-bred, the nation can boast claims to a number of famous offspring that were produced by Northern Dancer as a sire. He would achieve major success after retiring from the track, which also included overseas with Nijinsky, who was the rare winner of the English Triple Crown in 1970.

While he never produced a winner of the Derby, Northern Dancer did add a Kentucky Oaks victor to his notable prodigy with White Star Line in 1977.

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Sunny’s Halo

Sunny’s Halo became the second Canadian-bred Kentucky Derby winner in 1983. He was a stunning winner of the race for trainer David C. Cross Jr, and he would land victories in nine of his 20 appearances on track to win over $1.2 million in prize money.

He immediate gained attention in Canada after being named the Canadian Champion Two-Year-Old in 1982, before winning the Arkansas Derby on his way to Derby success. Sunny’s Halo beat a talented field in the Derby, which included future Hall of Famer Slew o’ Gold. It also marked the first time that the winner of the Arkansas Derby had landed the Churchill Downs showpiece.

However, that would be the peak of his career after suffering a slight injury in the Derby. But, he would finish a creditable sixth in the Preakness Stakes before plugging on for fourth in the Arlington Classic. His achievements were later acknowledged after he was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1986.

Victoria Park

While Victoria Park never won a Triple Crown race, he did show that a route into the Triple Crown was likely for Canadian runners. Trained by Horatio Luro, he would win the Coronation Futurity Stakes and Cup and Saucer Stakes as a two-year-old. His improvement as a three-year-old was clear for all to see after finishing an excellent third in the Kentucky Derby in 1960.

He bettered that showing on his return to the track in the Preakness Stakes to finish a close second behind Bally Ache. Connections made the decision to bypass the Belmont Stakes in favour of the Queen’s Plate, and that decision was vindicated after winning the most important race in Canada in a record time that would stand for over 40 years.

Regal Classic

Regal Classic is one of the most celebrated Canadian horses in history. He was awarded the Sovereign Award for Champion Two-Year-Old in 1987 after winning the Grey Stakes, Coronation Futurity, and Summer Stakes. His season would also end with an excellent run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when finishing second.

Regal Classic would then enjoy a string of excellent performances in the American Triple Crown races, finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby, before battling for a sixth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes. His excellent career would end with a second in the Queen’s Plate, before deservedly landing the Prince of Wales Stakes. Regal Classic won over $1.4 million in prize money throughout his career, landing victories in eight of his 27 career starts for trainer James E. Day.

Mine That Bird

Mine That Bird has an association to Canada, but he wasn’t technically a winner for the nation after being American-bred. However, the vast majority of his early career was spent in Canada for trainer David Cotey, winning four from six starts at Woodbine.

But, the runner would join the yard of Richard Mandella before competing, and landing the Kentucky Derby in 2009. Mine That Bird would later finishing second in the Preakness Stakes, and third in the Belmont Stakes.