Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oaks Contender: Karlovy Vary

In mid-April, it was announced that the influential sire Dynaformer was pensioned after over twenty years of standing at stud, meaning only a few more crops sired by the great stallion will grace the track. Among those vanishing offspring is the flourishing three-year-old filly Karlovy Vary. Bred in Kentucky by owner Alex Campbell, this bay filly has suddenly emerged as one of the leading sophomore fillies in the nation.

Karlovy Vary made her debut at the competitive Saratoga, closing to finish third after a rough start in a mile and one-sixteenth turf maiden special weight. She was defeated by the future grade one-placed Heart of Destiny, but galloped across the finish line ahead of the eventual graded stakes-winning Lady of Shamrock, as well as the future graded stakes-placed runners Dancing Solo and Goldrush Girl. Ironically, Karlovy Vary would eventually contest against a number of these fillies at a higher level in the future.

Approximately a month later, Karlovy Vary raced in yet another mile and one-sixteenth turf maiden special weight – this time at the tough autumn meet at Keeneland. After pressing the pace, the daughter of Dynaformer galloped to a 1 ½-length victory. Among the horses that she defeated were Lady of Shamrock and the eventual black-type-placed Oaks Lily.

Karlovy Vary then made both her graded stakes and dirt debut, going a mile and one-sixteenth over Churchill Downs’ dirt surface in the Golden Rod Stakes (GII). Traveling very wide, the filly ran near the rear of the field and made a decent move, but only managed to finish seventh in the field of ten. The winner of that race was the impressive On Fire Baby, who defeated runner-up Goldrush Girl by 6 ¼ lengths.

In her final start as a juvenile, Karlovy Vary returned to the turf in the Ginger Brew Stakes at Gulfstream Park – yet again at a mile and one-sixteenth. Settling far off the pace, Karlovy Vary only made a very slight move to finish seventh of twelve.

The filly’s sophomore debut was a winning one – a victory in an a mile and one-sixteenth allowance optional claiming over Gulfstream Park’s turf course. After being forwardly placed, Karlovy Vary rallied to prevail by a half-length over Heart of Destiny. She complete the eight and one-half furlongs in an impressive final time of 1:40.92 with an imposing final sixteenth in 5.82 seconds.

At the beginning of April, Karlovy Vary contested in the Bluegrass State’s most esteemed prep for the Kentucky Oaks (GI): the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (GI) at Keeneland Racecourse. This time, she set the pace – posting easy internal fractions of 24.34, 24.63, 24.81, and 24.50 in the mile and one-sixteenth race. Despite being chased by the stakes-winning Hard Not to Like, the grade one-winning and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) victor Stephanie’s Kitten, Heart of Destiny, the graded stakes-placed and multiple stakes-winning Dixie Strike, Goldrush Girl, and the multiple stakes-winning Lotta Lovin, Karlovy Vary held off their charges to score by ¾ of a length.

Dynaformer, the sire of Karlovy Vary
Photo: Terri Cage
Dynaformer is not only the sire of the 2006 Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Barbaro, but also the sire of  the brilliant distance horse Americain (winner of the 3200-meter Melbourne Cup) and the multiple grade one-winning champion steeplechaser McDynamo. The cross of Roberto sire-line stallions such as Dynaformer and Pulpit mares such as Karlovy Vary’s dam has produced the graded stakes winner over twelve furlongs on grass, Newsdad, and the graded stakes-placed runner over ten furlongs on turf, Rocket Leg – Karlovy Vary’s full brother. This cross forms an average winning distance of over nine furlongs – covering Karlovy Vary for the mile and one-eighth distance of the Kentucky Oaks.

Karlovy Vary is sure to inherit plenty of stamina from her dam, The Right Pew, as well. She is, of course, also the dam of the aforementioned Rocket Legs, but is the daughter of the multiple stakes-winning mare at a mile or longer, Packet – who was sired by the same sire as the 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero, Polish Navy. By being out of Packet, The Right Pew is a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes-winning Great Intentions and the multiple stakes-winning and graded stakes-placed Sea Road.

Not only should Karlovy Vary receive much stamina influence from many of the sires found in her dam side (A.P. Indy, Danzig, Tom Rolfe, Bold Ruler), but her fifth dam is the 1957 Champion Three-Year-Old Filly, Bayou. Not only was she a champion out of a Reine De Course mare, but she was a Reine De Course mare in her own right that was a sister to two Broodmares of the Year – including her multiple stakes-winning full sister Levee, dam of the champion Shuvee. Bayou herself was the dam of the multiple stakes-winning Batteur and the dam of multiple grade one winners Coastal and Slew o’ Gold – the latter of which is a Hall of Famer. Other direct descendants of Bayou include the multiple grade one-winning Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (GI, 12F) runner-up Aptitude - who also won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) at ten furlongs - and the grade one-winning Sleep Easy. This strong dam line hails from female family nine, which is the same female family that the great horses Alydar, Bull Lea, Fair Play, Galileo, Mahmoud, Nasrullah, Sea the Stars, Sir Barton, and Shergar descend from.

Karlovy Vary’s only start over the Churchill Downs dirt was a poor one, but this filly has certainly come into her own as a three-year-old. She is showing much improvement and with a pedigree like hers, she will likely continue to mature. Even if her performance is not quite up to par, expect for Karlovy Vary to make a scene down the road – especially in races in which stamina is a requirement. But a disappointing performance in the Kentucky Oaks would be a bit of a surprise, as this daughter of Dynaformer is a quickly improving, gifted filly.

*Later in the afternoon of the day this was posted, it was announced that Dynaformer had passed away at the age of twenty-seven. Rest in peace, big man!

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