30 April 2012

DYNAFORMER And Gratitude

Dynaformer in his Paddock - enjoying the spring sunshine (Photo courtesy of Three Chimneys Farm)
I make no bones about the fact that I am a huge fan of horse racing.  From an early age, I have adored racing in all it's incarnations.   But the flat -- now that was the end all for me. EXTERMINATOR, BULL LEA, MAN O WAR, NATIVE DANCER, SWAPS, FOREGO, KELSO, DR FAGER, REGRET -- these were the names I remember hearing and reading about voraciously -- from very early on.

I remember, vividly, the 1973 Belmont stakes, my jaw dropped in disbelief, as SECRETARIAT quickly overwhelmed and then blew away the field.  It was, in fact, the most memorable race of my recollection.  I also watched in shock and sadness as the legendary BARBARO, a horse I had on the radar at the top of my list throughout the entire 2005-2006 racing season, was clipped in the Preakness. With outstanding love and care, he survived for a time --  on sheer strength and the will to win --- to attain different kind of equine greatness.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the great thoroughbred stallions.  From, SECRETARIAT, to SMARTY JONES, SILVER CHARM & CHARISMATIC, BIG BROWN to AP INDY, etc.  I have been lucky to have the access and for that I am grateful.

One hot, humid, downright sticky mid-seventies Sunday morning in June, more years ago than I care think about, I showed up unannounced at the farm gate and talked myself onto Claiborne.  Although it was Sunday,  it's a breeding farm, so it was business as usual.  SECRETARIAT had been to the breeding shed earlier in the morning but the stallion manager brought him out of his stall.

What a thrill.  Red looked bored with the entire affaire, but I was over the moon. Here he was, right in front of me, as large as life!  To stroke the neck that had helped propel that perfectly proportioned frame through such an amazing racing career was an almost swoon-able experience for me.  Heady to say the least.  Although I doubt my attention gave the object of my adoration much of a charge.  He'd had a hard morning at the office and just wanted to go lay down for awhile. I was grateful for his tolerance of this minor being's attentions.

Years later, I would go to Claiborne again to visit Red's grave, remembering that sticky summer morning when I'd been lucky enough to touch true equine greatness. I was thankful.

Last week, on a beautiful spring morning, I saw equine greatness again. I was invited by Jen Roytz to visit Three Chimneys Farm for a private tour.  I had visited the farm before, as part of a tour group. But this was different.  It was quieter, more intimate.

It was during this visit that I had an opportunity to see DYNAFORMER for the last time.  He had recently suffered a cardiac episode so his visitors were severely curtailed.  I felt honored and concerned as I stood in the doorway of his barn, quietly watching him from a distance as he stood in his stall, enjoying the dappled spring sunshine.  I didn't take a photo.  I didn't maneuver for a better look. I just watched him as he enjoyed a beautiful morning in what was to be an all too brief retirement.  Now that he is gone and I realize just how lucky I was to be able to quietly say goodbye to greatness.

You see, DYNAFORMER was Thoroughbred greatness of another kind.  While not considered to be a classically beautiful horse, he had a great racing record.  And, he did have beautiful offspring, like the legendary BARBARO. But, more than a classic beauty, he offered and gave the Thoroughbred another kind of beauty -- that of incredible strength, stamina, longevity, and an intense will to win.  The greatest, perhaps leser known characteristic he passed along to his progeny- in my opinion -- was the tendency not to bleed (EIPH).  While that may not seem like such a big deal,  if you're at all attuned to what is currently going on in the Thoroughbred industry , you know that the tendency NOT not to bleed is a very big deal.

To those who loved him, like everyone at Three Chimneys, the loss of this stallion is the loss of a member of the family.  To the Thoroughbred breed itself, the greatest loss is that he is no longer here to pass along his exceptional physical attributes first hand to another generation of offspring.  To me, it is the loss of a horse for whom I recently acquired even more admiration --  for yet another reason.  Because, after suffering a major cardiac event that would have brought every other horse to it's knees and kept them there, DYNAFORMER,  with his incredible strength and will to win, was able get up and survive to enjoy the dappled spring sunshine a few days longer.

Like many other of his outstanding offspring, DYNAFORMER'S sons NICANOR and LENTENOR (BARBARO's full little brothers), are or will be racing soon. And so, DYNAFORMER lives on in his strong, exceptional offspring. His wonderful characteristics will continue to enrich the breed.

Hopefully, I will visit DYNAFORMER again, as he lies in the dappled spring sunshine.  I will thank him again for giving so much of himself to a wonderful breed.  And, as a lover of the breed and the sport, for this and much, much more, I am very grateful.

DYNAFORMER - Photo courtesy of Three Chimneys Farm

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