Hirapour and McDynamo, the last two American steeplechase champions, meet Saturday to decide the 2005 title winner, headlining a field of nine in the $150,000 Colonial Cup (NSA-I) at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C.
Eldon Farm's Hirapour tries to win his third grade I of 2005 and salt away a repeat steeplechase championship for Virginia-based trainer Doug Fout. The 9-year-old Irish-bred has won two of five starts this year and leads the National Steeplechase Association earnings list with $228,025. Matt McCarron has the return riding assignment in the 2 3/4-mile, 17-fence test that ends the 2005 NSA season.
Michael Moran's McDynamo, who won his third consecutive Breeders' Cup Steeplechase last month, aims to complete a comeback from four straight losses to start the season. The 8-year-old son of Dynaformer
sits just behind Hirapour in the 2005 standings with $175,425 and can add a second Eclipse Award to the title he won in 2003 with a win Saturday. Jody Petty returns for his second ride aboard the Kentucky-bred.
Both horses look primed for solid efforts, coming five weeks after the Breeders' Cup (where McDynamo scored a nine-length win and Hirapour settled for third). The Springdale course should be firm, rather than the soft going that favored McDynamo at Far Hills and there should also be a fair pace scenario -- meaning McDynamo won't be forced to lead at every step yet Hirapour should be able to find his customary spot off the pace early.
"A legitimate pace is a key for me and I think there will be," said McCarron. "I need my horse to settle and shut off. I also need him to be on top of his game, of course. And I need to ride a smart race and not get in trouble. Don't panic and worry about McDynamo – just ride my race."
In four prior meetings (two in 2004 and two this year), McDynamo and Hirapour own two wins apiece -- giving Saturday the feeling of a World Series Game 7.
"I have all the respect in the world for Hirapour," said Hendriks, "and this is going to be a tough race to win. Hirapour ran a beautiful race there last year and he's formidable contender. I know McDynamo is in good form and I was thrilled with the race he ran at the Breeders' Cup. I'm hoping he can repeat it."
The Colonial Cup has been won by 14 champions including Hirapour and McDynamo. The latter set the course record of 5:05 2/5 in 2003, only to see Hirapour turn in a 5:04 3/5 in his 2004 victory.
Petty (18 wins) and McCarron (17) are battling for the NSA jockey championship.$150,000 Colonial Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I), 4 & up, 2 3/4 miles
PP. Horse (with owner, trainer, jockey).
1. Hirapour (Eldon Farm, Doug Fout, Matt McCarron)
2. Free Admission (Bill Pape, Jonathan Sheppard, Danielle Hodsdon)
3. McDynamo (Michael Moran, Sanna Hendriks, Jody Petty)
4. Blasphemous (Jeremy Gillam, owner, no rider)
5. Niello (Mrs. Lewis C. Murdock, William Cocks, Bernie Dalton)
6. Cherokeeinthehills (Marilyn Ketts, Jonathan Sheppard, Richard Boucher)
7. Mon Villez (Calvin Houghland, Bruce Miller, Chip Miller)
8. Erin Go Bragh (Brigadoon Stable, Doug Fout, Zach Miller)
9. Numitas (Eldon Farm, Doug Fout, Carl Rafter) All starters assigned 156 pounds