A field of nine championship-quality runners will line up for Saturday's $175,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I) at Far Hills. The race for 4-year-olds and up will be contested over 14 fences going 2 5/8-miles and is the richest steeplechase horse in North America.
The field is topped by McDynamo, who won this race last year by an impressive 15 lengths on his way toward Eclipse Award honors as top steeplechase horse. Jockey Craig Thornton has the mount.
The Sanna Hendicks-trainee enters the Breeders' Cup having not raced since winning the 2003 Colonial Cup last November. An injury to his right hock was discovered shortly after that race, and surgery, where two screws were inserted, put a spring/summer campaign on hold.
Hendriks and owner Michael Moran pegged the Breeders' Cup as a return, and have used steady workouts and two training flat races as tighteners for the Breeders' Cup.
"Everything has been smooth getting him back," Hendricks said during a National Thoroughbred Racing Association teleconference Tuesday. "The injury was just below the hock and after surgery he was locked in his stall for two months and then we started riding him again. I would have liked to have gotten him back at Keeneland but it didn't work out that way."
A 7-year-old son of Dynaformer, McDynamo will likely face the toughest test of his career (which includes eight wins from 10 starts over jumps), but still enters the race as the favorite after scoring five impressive wins last year.
Flat Top will be trying to win the Far Hills feature for the third time, having won the 1998 Grand National and the 2002 Breeders' Cup en route to championship honors both seasons.
The Janet Elliott-trainee enters the race as the leading earner in the field, with a bankroll of $592,306 and the Breeders' Cup race will be the first start for Flat Top since 2002, where he won two of five starts.
The field (with owner, trainer, jockey, and mythical morning line by the NSA, although there is no pari-mutuel wagering at Far Hills) in post position order:
1--Flat Top (Rob Massey, 4-1).
2-- Hirapour (Matt McCarron, 8-1).
3-- Ansar (David Casey, 10-1).
4--McDynamo (Craig Thornton, 8-5).
5-- Tres Touche (David Bentley, 10-1).
6--Sur La Tete (Chris Read, 6-1).
7--Pelagos (Chip Miller, 15-1).
8--Preemptive Strike (Robbie Walsh, 15-1).
9--Popular Gigalo (Chip Miller, 20-1).