Nashua's sire was the European champion Nasrullah. The dam was Segula, a broodmare who has had influence through her female descendants.
Owned by William Woodward, Jr.'s famous Belair Stud in Bowie, Maryland, Nashua was trained by Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons and ridden by jockey Eddie Arcaro. As a two-year-old in 1954, Nashua entered eight races, winning six and finishing second twice, which earned him champion 2-year-old honors. The following year he earned United States Horse of the Year awards from the Thoroughbred Racing Association (with 21 of the 40 votes), and the publishers of Daily Racing Form.
Following the death of William Woodward, Jr., the Belair Stud horses were auctioned off. In 1955, a syndicate purchased Nashua for a record $1,251,200 from the Woodward estate, with majority interests owned by Christopher J. Devine (senior partner and founder of C.J. Devine & Co.); Leslie Combs II; and John Wesley Hanes II, an Under Secretary of the Treasury in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration, the head of the New York Racing Association and a part owner in the company that made Hanes hosiery and underwear. In 1956 the syndicate leased Nashua to Combs to race under the Combs colors.
At the end of his 1956 season, after thirty career races with a record of 22–4–1, Nashua was retired to stand at stud at Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. He retired as only the second horse to earn more than $1 million. His earnings of $1,288,565 surpassed the great Citation's record and stood as the earnings mark until surpassed by Round Table in the autumn of 1958.
At stud, Nashua was consistent, though his fillies were usually better runners than his colts. His progeny included the Hall of Fame racemare Shuvee, Gold Digger (the dam of Mr. Prospector), and Melbourne Cup winner Beldale Ball.
In 1965, Nashua was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. In The Blood-Horse ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, he was ranked 24.
Nashua died in 1982 and is buried at Spendthrift Farm. In the mid-eighties, the farm commissioned a statue to be raised over him. The sculptor was Liza Todd, the daughter of Mike Todd and Elizabeth Taylor.
In 2010, sportswriter Bill Christine wrote that Nashua "...belongs on that short list of best horses never to have won the Kentucky Derby".
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- "And Now It's Official, Nashua is the Champ". Ocala Star-Banner. 1955-12-09. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
- "Poll Names Nashua Horse Of The Year". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
- "Christopher J. Devine, 58, Dies; A Dealer in Government Bonds". The New York Times. May 11, 1963. p. 25.
- "Hope Hanes, 86, Dies; Breeder of Race Horses". New York Times. August 14, 1992.
- "Nashua Owners Listed; Hanes, Devine in Syndicate – Title to Horse Received". New York Times. December 23, 1955.
- Christine, B. (October 23, 2010). Death Killed a Sports Illustrated Cover. horseraceinsider.com. Retrieved January 23, 2015.