Racing's Favorite Grump - By Deirdre B. Biles

 (Originally published in the February 4, 2012 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)

Dynaformer’s reputation as Three Chimneys Farm’s grumpiest stallion is deserved. The 27-year-old son of Roberto lets everyone know when he’s in a bad mood, expressing his displeasure by kicking and pawing the floor of his stall. Years ago he got so annoyed that he bit off a handler’s finger.

Dynaformer also is one of the best horses ever to stand at Robert and Blythe Clay’s Central Kentucky nursery, which has been the home of such standout sires as Rahy and 1977 Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

“He’s a pretty amazing animal, and he thinks he should be the center of everybody’s world,” said Three Chimneys’ stallion manager, Sandy Hatfield, of Dynaformer. “He’s by far our most aggressive horse. You can’t ever take your eye off of him.”

Most stallions Dynaformer’s age have been pensioned, but he’s getting ready for another breeding season.

“Knock on wood, his health is good, so we’re going to give it a try,” said Three Chimneys president Case Clay.

Dynaformer’s book will be limited to 40 mares, and, ideally, he’ll cover no more than one on any given day while standing for a fee of $150,000. In 2011 the syndicated stallion was bred to 61 mares, getting 27 in foal.

Because Dynaformer has sired more than 120 stakes winners, his appeal as a stallion remains high. His talented offspring include European and Australian champion Americain, European champion Rainbow View, English champions Lucarno and Ocean Silk, and German champion Wiener Walzer.

Among Dynaformer’s other notable runners are three-time champion steeplechaser McDynamo, Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Barbaro, Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner Brilliant Speed, and Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) winner Star Billing. Blue Bunting distinguished herself by capturing the QIPCO One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) along with the Darley-sponsored Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I) and Irish Oaks (Ire-I).

“The Roberto line is an important bloodline, and Dynaformer has been able to carry it on,” Clay said. “He’s also been able to sire horses that are successful on both sides of the Atlantic (Ocean) as well as in Australia and Japan, so he’s popular worldwide.”

Dynaformer has risen far from his modest start as a stallion. After winning the Jersey Derby (gr. II) and Discovery Handicap (gr. II), he entered stud in 1990 at Wafare Farm in Kentucky for an advertised live foal fee of $5,000. In the summer of 1994, Dynaformer moved to Three Chimneys. By then, several offspring from his first crop had captured stakes, and one, future grade III winner Blumin Affair, had finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and third in the Kentucky Derby.

In the years that followed, Dynaformer’s reputation as a sire of racehorses continued to grow. But gaining respect as a commercial stallion proved much more difficult for him to achieve.

“He’s a big, coarse horse, and he tends to produce horses that don’t necessarily win beauty contests,” Clay said. “But I think, over time, people realized that even though they weren’t great-looking, they won graded stakes. They started to bid more for them.”

In 2006 Dynaformer’s son Mystic Bell commanded $1 million at the Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training. The following year, another son, Urban Poet, brought $2.9 million at the Keeneland September yearling auction. In 2010 Dynaformer was North America’s leading sire of sale weanlings, with an average price of $237,000 for his five progeny that were sold.

“Like most good horses, Dynaformer knows he’s good; he is still ‘The Man’ around here,” Hatfield said.

Arthritis has slowed down the stallion some, and he wears special shoes on his front feet after trouble with 

“I’m not sure that he’s gotten any nicer as he’s gotten older, but we have learned how to handle him a little better,” Hatfield said. “We just try to keep him as happy as possible. We catch him at the door (of his stall) with a cup of grain and when we give him a shot, we give him a carrot.”

Dynaformer wears a muzzle during his trips to the breeding shed, but “it’s not because he’s mean to the mares,” Hatfield explained. “It’s because he gets pretty excited to be heading in that direction. Sometimes, you’re in the way and he just wants to make sure that you know who the boss is.”

Veronica Reed, who has been Dynaformer’s groom for nearly a year, still has all her fingers and is fond of the ornery stallion.

“If you respect him, he’ll respect you,” she said. “He’s fun to work with, and I enjoy it a lot…at least until I get eaten by him.”

When Dynaformer’s stallion career finally does end, “he’ll live out the rest of his life at Three Chimneys,” Clay said. “His routine will be the same, except that he won’t go to the breeding shed.”

And when the cranky horse dies, “it will be a sad day,” Hatfield said. “Even though Dynaformer is tough, he’s definitely got a personality and is great to be around. We’ll miss him.”


Leave a Comment:

Criminal Type

What a great story, You can't help but laugh as you read about Big Daddy D's antics. I had heard he removed someones finger, at last I have confirmation. I also heard about the muzzle, although the story I got was that he was an "aggressive" breeder.

It's nice to get information about a horse I have always loved. I've always thought it a shame Roberto died relatively young at 19. At least his legacy has been perpetuated by Dynaformer, Lear Fan and Kris S.  Thanks for the memories.

31 Jan 2012 11:53 AM
Greg J.

Thank you!  Great to hear Dynaformer is doing as well as could be expected for his age, hope he has many more years with us.

31 Jan 2012 12:16 PM
Karen in Indiana

When I saw the headline of your article, my first thought was - grumpy - horse racing - Dynaformer? I've been to Three Chimneys 3 times (to see Big Brown) and all 3 times, Dynaformer either totally ignored the people oohing and aahing over him or turned his back and showed his behind. A statement if there ever was one. Most of the other horses seemed to enjoy the attention. Dynaformer does stamp his offspring. With the death way too young of Purim, are there any other promising sons who could carry on the bloodline since most seem to get gelded?

31 Jan 2012 12:59 PM
Deb C

Love, love, love the old coot!!!  Got a chance to meet him two years ago.  He was coming back to his stall, as he passed Rahy he put on a performance letting everyone know who was boss.  He was loud and was popping on his front hooves.  Don't know that Rahy conceded that though.  I didn't see him race but did see McDynamo win all of his races at Moorland Farms.  There is definitely something about the ornery ones that get into your heart, as long as you keep your digits, that is! I wear his hat proudly.

31 Jan 2012 1:12 PM

He gets his rough disposition from Ribot and His Majesty.  Both of which were certifiably NUTS.  The Hail To Reason line has always been a little tough, but when they cross the finish line first, it is amazing how beautiful they become.  Lets hope this Guy is around for a long time.  Wishful thinking as he is 27, but Halo went into his 30's and was still active.  Both are from the same sire line.

31 Jan 2012 1:52 PM

I take strong exception to the remark that Dynaformer's offspring arent known for their good looks -- one only has to look at Barbaro and his brothers to realize that this is not true across the board. Nicanor, Lentenor and Margano are extremely beautiful horses, and Rainbow View is lovely, too.  Of course the dams make a definite contribution (the sires cannot produce offspring without them!)

I love this old rascal AND his offspring!

31 Jan 2012 4:25 PM

He's a favorite! Thanks for the story.

31 Jan 2012 6:05 PM
Criminal Type

Southbend, Yes ! Hail to Reason was well known for his nasty attitude as was Halo who was muzzled just to go out in his paddock.  Hoist the Flag, a grandson of Ribot, was also known for his evil disposition. I wonder what it is about that line. So many good horses have been produced by them. Interesting enough, I have never heard anything about Halo's sons Sunday Silence or Sunnys Halo being mentally unbalanced. Incedently, Halo passed away at 31.

31 Jan 2012 8:08 PM

When we visited Three Chimneys, you couldn't help but notice that the old man's stall door was dented, apparently from a kick. He turned his back to us but I caught him looking over his shoulder a couple times, with a look like he wanted us to think, "Any of you come over here and bother me and I will mess you up." Of course, if he really didn't care he wouldn't have paid any attention at all!

31 Jan 2012 9:34 PM

This is a great story.  Thanks for sharing it!  I guess this is the equine version of "Grumpy Old Men!"

What a pistol he is, I feel sorry for his main wife, La Ville Rouge! Wow, Barbaro did not seem at all like him.  Barbaro seemed very calm and highly intelligent and aware.  It must be a sight him going to the breeding shed in a muzzle.  I wish all of his handlers well and please guard your fingers.  I can't imagine Dynaformer going through what Barbaro had to endure, the fractures, the surgery, the hardware in and out, the infection, the laminitis.  Imagine handlng Dynaformer through all that?  He comes with quite a stud fee too.  All I know if I was La Ville Rouge my hair would be standing on end when I saw him walking over!!!!!!!!!

31 Jan 2012 9:38 PM
Paula Higgins

I loved this blog. I knew all horses were not warm and fuzzy (Ribot) but didn't know Dynaformer was one of them LOL. Very interesting but nice to know he is in a place where they can still handle him while treating him kindly. He sounds like quite a character but I do feel bad for the person who lost a finger.

31 Jan 2012 9:57 PM
Terry M.

It's a good thing his foals can run. What about the ones that can't? If they inherit that nasty, dangerous temperament but not the racing ability, they will be useless for any other career. He sounds outright vicious, and that is not a good trait. A horse can become a champion runner without being dangerous to be around.

31 Jan 2012 11:44 PM

Great story, thank you! So true, he is nothing to look at! But he gets the job done!

01 Feb 2012 12:06 AM
spectacular bid

ahhh, reminds me of halo. loved that black stallion..course, i never had to try and handle him.

i remember going to stone farm and seeing halo in his paddock. the groom told me they would not go get him for me to take a picture but if i wanted to lean in and take pics as he was running down the fence to eat me, i was welcome to. sure enough, as soon as i leaned into the paddock, halo came running and i backed out and stood away, he turned his head towards e and gave me the look to let me know it was his world and i wasnt welcome in it. i took a great head shot of him that day, and you can see the fire in his eyes, still have and love the pic. i got to see him again at 31 and dispite age, he hadnt changed much,just a little slower..halo, storm bird, dynaformer. they definitly make for some good stories..i hope dynaformer lives well into his 30s

01 Feb 2012 2:12 AM
Stellar Jayne

Thanks for the interesting piece about the alpha horse Dynaformer.  I spotted the muzzle in the picture and thought it curious, now I know why.  Wasn't Northern Dancer (unrelated)an aggressive horse also?  I agree with Alex'sBigFan - Barbaro was especially beautiful and his siblings are very attractive as well.  None of them seem to have aggressive tendencies.

A few years ago I made the acquaintance of man on a riding trail and we turned to talking of racing and thoroughbreds.  He owns one of Roberto's sons which he rescued from death.  He is unridable, but very beautiful and is living his life out peacefully in a pasture in Long Island, NY.

Sometimes life provides a happy ending!

01 Feb 2012 3:04 AM

Well, I've had my laugh for the day. I've heard that Goldikova is alot like Dynaformer, has a real nasty disposition. Perhaps they'd make a good pair. I wonder what kind of little devils they would have?

01 Feb 2012 3:11 AM
Criminal Type

Terry, Im guessing that is the reason so many of his male offspring have become geldings. I know from my experience with my own horse, castration makes a huge difference in attitude. My horse, when he was intact, you could not get near him without him trying to take a chunk out of you. He stopped doing that immediately after the surgery. Not once in the past 4 months has he tried to kick me or bite me and we are progressing nicely in training. His mind has also changed, he is more focused, more willing and a whole lot more fun to be around.

01 Feb 2012 5:16 AM

Love this guy! Got to meet this big bad boy last summer - most of the time he stood with his back to all his admirers but finally turned around to look at everyone in his crabby way!  I love horses with attitude, mine is a grouch too but much gentler as he is an old gelding.  Hope big D has many more years of curmudgeonly living to come!

01 Feb 2012 5:54 AM
Karen in Indiana

Terry M., I think that's why so many of his sons get gelded. If the attitude is hormone driven, that would take care of it. I have heard that a lot of his offspring have strong minds. That's different than a bad attitude and when you find where they fit, they shine. Read about McDynamo. They tried him flat racing & he stunk. But they found out he loved to jump and he ended up winning an Eclipse award for steeplechase. It seems like with Dynaformers, everything works out better when you go with their flow instead of trying to make them fit in your box.

01 Feb 2012 8:28 AM

Love this story! I think, considering the impact he's had on the breed, he's worth whatever it takes to manage him. And to keep him happy.

01 Feb 2012 10:53 AM

Criminal Type....Sunday Silence was a carbon copy of Halo....disposition wise.  He was in a paddock opposite Halo for the little time he was at Stone Farm and he and Halo took turns running the fence and roaring at each other.  IT was almost like they knew they were Father and son.  The Ribot line has always been tough.  Ribot bred a TREE when he was at Stud in Ky.  The toughness of these two lines are probably the reasons that sires from these lines produce winners of the highest quality, and that can go a distance.  I have a Fly So Free mare out of a double Tom Rolfe that I mean the 2nd dam is by Alleged, who is by the forementioned Hoist The Flag that you mentioned was tough.  The mare is not bad, but her offspring have been a little tough.  They have all been able to run though.  We have a just turned 2 year old by Quiet American out of her, that has a wonderful mind and is not mean at all.  Can't wait to get him to the races and stretch him out.

01 Feb 2012 12:40 PM

I know exactly what you are talking about! When I went to visit Dynaformer, the groom showed us the bent bars on his stall where he had kicked them. I totally respect Dynaformer and the staff at Three Chimneys!!  

01 Feb 2012 12:50 PM

Barbaro wasn't above some biting.  I remember when he was post-op and Dr. Richardson kept telling people that as thoroughbred stallions/colts went, Barbaro had amazingly few vices, but if you gave him any chance, he'd nip at you and it wasn't out of love!  Given the circumstances I probably would have bitten a lot of people too!

01 Feb 2012 1:00 PM
Melissa P

Dynaformer is my favorite "find" of all time! We bred to him his first two years at Wafare. He was so magnificent in his carriage and full of himself. I just knew he was going to be special. Not bad as a "fall back" from Kris S. (another good "find") who went from $5,000 in FL to $50,000 overnight. Still love those Robertos!

01 Feb 2012 2:22 PM
Linda in Texas

Convene i so agree. 200 percent right on. A carrot for a shot!

Bless him. And thank him. He is a living legend and i think someone has whispered that in his ear.

Thanks for the article. I love the

older horses and grumpy just seems to come with the territory and i respect him for it.


01 Feb 2012 3:41 PM

I wish Dynaformer many more years with us. What a great story. Some of his offspring must get their good looks from Roberto. At least the picture of him on Pedigree Query looks awesome.

01 Feb 2012 3:54 PM
carol in utah

Isn't Americain (Aus) one of his?

01 Feb 2012 7:41 PM

Terry M,

Stallions as a rule require expert handling and a breeding stallion on his way to the shed is going to show his attitude.  Even the 'professional' types are not to be taken for granted and should be treated with the utmost respect by people who know what they're doing.  Have you ever seen those videos where a stallion is lead out for a viewing and he gets trying to grab the shank and the handle is quick to snatch it away?  A lot of people fuss at the handler to stop 'jerking' on the shank but the thing is you can not let a stallion take even an inch, like you would your pleasure horse, because an inch quickly goes to a mile.  It is just the mindset of a stallion, if he gets even a little up on you, you're in trouble.  Its like Hatfield says, going to the breeding shed, Big D was not going to tolerate anyone, human or equine interfering with his breeding that mare and he would show who was boss.  Problem being that when 1200lbs of muscle and attitude decides to show a 190lb human who is boss, the human is coming out of that the worse for wear.  I also agree with Criminal Type and Karen, this is probably why most of Big D's colts at least are gelded to curb that breeding imperative and added attitude.  That aggression and determination to be on top is an attitude you want on the race track, that's why some of the most wicked tempers (Hastings, Ribot, Nasrullah) are also the foundation lines in today's top runners.

01 Feb 2012 9:31 PM

Respect his authoritay!  

Purim's premature death is indeed a shame, but there is another son of Dynaformer who either just sired his first foal, or got his first stakes winner--I can't remember which one.

(senility is not pretty). Hopefully this stallion will do as well as his sire.

02 Feb 2012 2:50 PM
Criminal Type

SouthBend, Thanks for that info on Sunday Silence...I did not know that he was like that. I was all over Easy Goer that season being a son of my beloved Alydar. I still think one of the greatest mistakes ever made was letting Sunday Silence go to Japan. I must say it was gratifying when Criminal Type, got the revenge of the Alydar's when he beat Sunday Silence in the Gold Cup.

The thing about Halo and the tree is hysterical. He musta been really ...umm..hard up.

I have a turning 4 yr old three quarter arab quarter morgan who was castrated in October, His behavior was becoming dangerous, but thankfully he stopped the biting, striking and studdish behavior almost overnight. Also, My horse is at a training center and there is a mare there who is a daughter of Oh Say, a son of Hoist the Flag.....I am being kind when I say she is less then pleasant.

Carol, Yes, Americain is a Dynaformer.

I heard a story from someone who has a family member working at Three Chimneys in the Stallion division and this person told me that they carry a club with them to the breeding shed when the escort Dynaformer over. I have no proof this is fact, but I would not be surprised.

02 Feb 2012 4:05 PM
Melissa P

Perfect Drift (greeting guests at the Kentucky Derby Museum) I am told can also be a biter. He's one of my favorites because he was one of the first Dynaformers to prove I knew my stallions. I got to, finally, spend some time with Drift and he was very kind with me, but they told me that this wasn't always his demeanor. All American is a Roberto grandson. There are several Dynaformers standing stud. I'm anxious to learn when Barbaro's brothers go to stud. There is a stallion "Mr. Big" @stud in KY who is bred on the Dynaformer/Mr. Prospector cross (Fappiano)who is a big boy like Dynaformer. Another "Temple City" has his dark bay looks.

03 Feb 2012 8:36 AM

Great article about one of my favorite horses.  Dynaformer was on his game the day we visited Three Chimmneys - snorting and kicking for the benefit of us tourists.  Don't understand the "behind" view now.  Someone must have insulted him!

05 Feb 2012 1:08 AM

I think you have to deal with this temperament prior to adolescence.

A good first impression for the foal is being lifted off his feet by a two-legs.

A custom cavesson (fitted bitless halter with a heavily padded hinged steel noseband) not only gives you leverage and control for longeing but seems to signal this to colts; they don't test it much. But it is so comfortable they also don't resent it. A chain through the mouth is a declaration of war and submission to it is sullen.

08 Feb 2012 5:41 PM

What a great and sort of comical story.  Those superstars really behave like Divas.  I think Dynaformer is Awsome....

08 Feb 2012 11:22 PM

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