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.”

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