05/28/2009 11:00PM

Best in breed shows in Dynaformer

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Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
Rainbow View, winning the Fillies Mile last fall, is favored in the 1 1/2-mile English Oaks.

Last week D. Wayne Lukas disparaged the Belmont Stakes, or at least its distance, referring to the third jewel of the Triple Crown as an "anachronism," an assessment with which this observer heartily agrees. There is little point in asking a horse to run a mile and a half on dirt in June of his 3-year-old season when there are so very few opportunities for him to do so again later on down the road.

But Lukas's solution to the problem is to reduce the distance of America's oldest classic to 1 1/4 miles. That sound you just heard was the collective rattling of the bones of Man o' War, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, all of whom may now be haunting D. Wayne in his dreams.

Shortening the length of the Belmont is a short-term solution, one that has been tried with many other races in recent years without improving the breed. The real answer lies in some farsighted thinking on the part of American breeders, who should be taking steps to produce Thoroughbreds who can stay 1 1/2 miles - and farther. That would eventually lead to more and better races being carded at longer distances. And that would make the Belmont Stakes relevant again.

We have in our midst right now a stallion who is perhaps America's leading source of stamina in Dynaformer, and by stamina I don't mean 1 1/8 or 1 1/4 miles, but distances between 1 1/2 and two miles. A Kentucky-bred foal of 1985, he is a proof positive that American-breds can produce top-class animals to win major races at 1 1/2 miles and beyond. Unfortunately, almost all of his success in that rarefied realm occurs away from the American flat racing scene.

Dynaformer has been going great guns of late in Europe. On May 17, his 4-year-old son Americain landed a hot renewal of the Group 2 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier going a half-furlong short of two miles at Longchamp, establishing himself as one of Europe's better stayers. Three days later at Goodwood, his 3-year-old son Alwaary won the listed Cocked Hat Stakes at 1o3/8 miles to install himself as one of the favorites for Royal Ascot's 1 1/2-mile King Edward VII Stakes. Last month at Cologne, his 4-year-old filly Guantana took a listed race going 1 3/8 miles.

All three of those winners are homebreds owned by foreign horsemen: Americain by the Wertheimer brothers, Alwaary by Hamdan al-Maktoum, and Guantana by Baron Georg von Ullman. Dynaformer's best recent long-distance success in this country came in a jumps race at Malvern on May 16, when Tax Ruling won the 2 3/8-mile, Grade 2 National Hunt Cup Hurdle.

Dynaformer is also the sire of three-time American jumps champion McDynamo, and while he has had many outstanding winners on the flat in America - most notably Barbaro, Perfect Drift, Dynaforce, Riskaverse, Film Maker, Sand Springs, Vergennes, and Critical Eye - none of those ever won beyond 1 1/4 miles, largely because they never had the opportunity, although Dynamite Lass did win the 2006 edition of the Grade 3 The Very One Handicap at 1 3/8 miles.

It is in Europe where Dynaformer has been able to display best his stamina inducing qualities. In addition to Americain, Alwaary, and Guantana, his son Lucarno won the classic St. Leger Stakes at 1 3/4 miles, 166 yards in 2007 as well as the 1 1/2-mile, Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes. His daughter Rainbow View, Europe's champion 2-year-old filly last year and, like Lucarno, bred and owned by George Strawbridge, is currently the second favorite for the 1 1/2-mile English Oaks at Epsom on Friday.

European interest in Dynaformer has come late in his career, much of it stemming from the efforts of Strawbridge. Indeed, most of Dynaformer's best stakes winners anywhere have come in the last 10 years. His minders at Three Chimneys Farm have been patient with him, and he has rewarded them, his stud fee now set at a healthy $150,000.

"He came cheaply at first, but Dynaformer showed an early ability to upgrade mares," said Three Chimneys spokesperson Anne Peters. "As a result the quality of his mares continued to improve. That eventually led to his great success of late."

A son of Roberto, the winner of both the Epsom Derby and the Coronation Cup going 1o1/2 miles, Dynaformer has as his broodmare sire His Majesty, a son of the immortal Ribot, a two-time winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Sadly, that is the kind of bloodline that is passing into history in Kentucky.

Dynaformer has now sired 103 stakes winners and is covering 74 mares this season, not bad for a 24-year-old. On Friday, all of Three Chimneys Farm will be gathered round the television set to cheer on Rainbow View in the English Oaks, as should all of us who appreciate stamina in the Thoroughbred.