Dynaformer, the Three Chimneys stallion as famous for his surly temperament as for his winning offspring, was euthanized Sunday at age 27, on what would have been the ninth birthday of his most famous son, the late Barbaro.
Dynaformer stood for stud at $150,000 this year but was pensioned April 14 after suffering an aortic valve rupture while in his stall.
"Dynaformer impacted the industry in a way that few ever have or will," Three Chimneys president Case Clay said. "More than that, though, he was an awe-inspiring horse to be around. He commanded respect, and his toughness was undeniable to the very end. He reminded me a lot of Seattle Slew (the Triple Crown winner who also stood at Three Chimneys) in that when you were around him, you knew you were in the presence of greatness."
A son of champion sire Roberto, Dynaformer was bred by Joseph Allen and owned by Paul Lynn. His trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, allegedly called Dynaformer "the most difficult horse I ever trained."
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And Dynaformer's stall at Three Chimneys added credence to that reputation: the iron bars were distinctly bent out at the bottom, the result of displeasing the great Dynaformer.
"Dynaformer's tough spirit will continue to influence our breed for many years to come. He reminds us that looks aren't everything, and that the will to win is that intangible ingredient we are all striving to find," said Robert Clay, co-owner with his wife, Blythe, of Three Chimneys Farm.
"He commanded respect and total attention at all times," Three Chimneys stallion manager Sandy Hatfield said. "He had earned every bit of his reputation as being one of the toughest stallions in the industry, but when it came to his job in the breeding shed, he was a total professional. In my opinion, our industry has lost one of the greatest sires it will ever see."
Dynaformer raced 30 times. He won seven races and earned $671,207. But his achievements in the breeding shed dwarfed everything else.
His 21 crops of foals to race earned more than $105 million on the racetrack. Dynaformer is the sire of 130 stakes winners, including 61 graded-stakes winners, 25 Grade I stakes winners, and 18 millionaires. These numbers are the best in each respective category of all active sires. Dynaformer ranks in the top one-half of 1 percent of all sires by average earnings per starter, according to Three Chimneys.
Sons or daughters of Dynaformer have won the Kentucky Derby, One Thousand Guineas, Melbourne Cup, Irish Oaks, Stephen Foster Handicap, English St. Leger, German Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, American Oaks, Hollywood Derby, Shadwell Turf Mile, Santa Margarita Invitational, Flower Bowl Invitational, Santa Maria Handicap, Yorkshire Oaks, Beverly D. Stakes, Diana Handicap, Florida Derby, Hempstead Handicap, Gazelle Handicap, Matriarch Stakes and numerous other "black type" events. Four of his daughters have won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland's fall meet, a record for any stallion.
But Barbaro was his most famous son: He won the 2006 Kentucky Derby and was aiming for the rest of the Triple Crown races when he broke down in the Preakness. Barbaro was rushed to the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, where his leg was repaired. Ultimately laminitis claimed Barbaro's life and spurred promising new interest into research on a little-understood hoof disease that has claimed so many horses.
Dynaformer's biggest money earner was Perfect Drift, a gelding who earned more than $4.7 million on the track, and whose wins included the Stephen Foster Handicap and the Lane's End Spiral Stakes.
In 2005, Dynaformer was leading sire, and he had been in the top ranks four of the past five years.
He was a prolific and multifaceted stallion, siring winners on grass (Lucarno, St. Leger Stakes winner and English champion 3-year-old colt), in steeplechase (McDynamo, five time Breeders' Cup Grand National Steeplechase winner) and internationally (Americain, winner of the 2010 Melbourne Cup in Australia), and hundreds of successful broodmares.
Other notable runners by Dynaformer include Rainbow View (European champion 2-year-old filly), as well as Grade I winners Riskaverse, Film Maker, Starrer and Dynaforce.
His stallion career was a success almost from the start: Dynaformer began his stud career at Nathan Fox's Wafare Farm for an advertised stud fee of just $5,000. From his initial crop of 47 foals, 46 went on to race, and five of those were stakes winners, including Blumin Affair, who was second in the 1993 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and third in the 1994 Kentucky Derby.
For the 1995 breeding season, Dynaformer was moved to Three Chimneys. He will be buried in the Three Chimneys stallion cemetery next to stablemates Rahy and Wild Again.
Dynaformer will affect the thoroughbred breed for decades to come. His daughters have produced 78 stakes winners, and that number grows every month. Three of his progeny, including Karlovy Vary, winner of the Grade I Central Bank Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, just became graded stakes winners. Karlovy Vary is pointed toward Friday's Kentucky Oaks.
Known for their soundness and their heart, countless other Dynaformer sons and daughters went on to successful post-racing careers in the show ring and as field hunters.
Thoroughbred owner/breeder and show horse owner Ann Banks had this to say about Dynaformer: "I was always on the lookout for offspring of Dynaformer as flat and steeplechase horses. They were the full package: good bone, athleticism, fabulous movers, and a flexibility and natural movement like no other. The breeding industry, the flat and steeplechase industries, and the show world have truly lost one of their greatest producers."
After suffering a significant cardiac episode in his stall on April 14, Dynaformer was immediately pensioned from stallion duty. After Dynaformer had been stabilized, an ultrasound on April 15 revealed several holes in his heart as a result of the heart attack, one measuring eight centimeters long and two others measuring two centimeters each.
Dynaformer had been resting comfortably, eating well, and maintaining his daily turnout routine in the weeks after his heart scare, but his health took a turn Saturday evening, according to Three Chimneys.
"Dynaformer told us when it was his time to go," said Dr. Jim Morehead, Three Chimneys' resident veterinarian. "Amazingly, he had been comfortable after his initial crisis on April 14 and had been able to go to his paddock daily. A normal horse would not have survived his initial cardiac episode. He did everything on his terms, including deciding when he'd had enough."