Carnivalay, one of Maryland's top stallions for years, died Jan. 9 of an apparent heart attack at the Pons' family's Country Life Farm near Bel Air, Md. The 26-year-old son of Northern Dancer was pensioned because of declining fertility following the 2003 breeding season.
Although his race career was limited to four starts and one win, Carnivalay brought plenty to the table as a stallion in 1986 in the way of genetics. He not only was by Northern Dancer out of major winner Obeah (by Cyane), but was a full brother to three stakes winners, including grade II winners Dance Spell and Discorama. Brothers Mike and Josh Pons, who bought Carnivalay for stallion duty, started him for $2,500.
"He was a poor man's Danzig," said Mike Pons about another Northern Dancer stallion whose racing career was limited, but who went on to sire stardom. "Carnivalay proved a genetic bank whose offspring helped Maryland horsemen step up to the plate in a big way and have a little fun."
Carnivalay got off to a big start. His first crop included graded winners Groscar, Lucky Lady Lauren, and Valay Maid.
"His runners weren't just limited to Maryland, but along the East Coast," Pons said.
Valay Maid won the Molly Pitcher Handicap (gr. II) at Monmouth Park and the Cotillion Handicap (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park. She also ran third in the 1990 Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
Groscar captured six New Jersey stakes, including the Choice (gr. IIIT) and Lamplighter (gr. IIIT) Handicaps at Monmouth. Lucky Lady Lauren took her act west and won the Arlington Matron Handicap (gr. III).
Carnivalay, who sired 38 stakes winners, earned a reputation for siring durable runners able to earn their shares of purses. A full 81% of his foals started and 65% of them were winners. His average earnings per runner was $58,441 off career progeny earnings of $28.8 million.
"He had a kind of toughness that when channeled into his runners turned them into tigers," Pons said.
Aggadanwas Carnivalay's biggest earner, with $860,306. A multiple stakes winner in Maryland, Aggadan took his act to New York and was runner-up to Ghostzapper in the 2003 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) and 2004 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II).
Carnivalay, who topped the $2 million-mark in year-end progeny earnings from 1996 through 2001, sired other graded winners Ameri Valay, Radu Cool, and Virginia Carnival. Other top runners included Watchman's Warning, Malvern Rose, Saratoga Games, Silent Valay, Steak Scam, and Carnivorous Habit.
Carnivalay raced as a homebred for Jane Lunger's Christiana Stables. Christiana also bred and raced Carnivalay's champion half-sister, Go for Wand, who was champion 2-year-old filly the year Carnivalay's first foals started racing. Go for Wand repeated as division champion in 1990.
Carnivalay will be buried at Country Life.