Michael Moran's McDynamo was installed as the heavy favorite over seven other entrants in Saturday's $175,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I) to be run at the Far Hills Races in Far Hills, N.J.
Trained in Pennsylvania by Sanna Hendriks, the 6-year-old son of Dynaformer has won three consecutive starts including a dominant grade I victory at Keeneland this spring in his only start of 2003. There is no wagering at Far Hills, but National Steeplechase Association handicapper Bill Gallo listed McDynamo at 6-5 to win the 2 5/8-mile race over 14 fences. The Breeders' Cup, contested for the 12th time, is the fourth of six races on an all-stakes day that begins at 1 p.m.
McDynamo hasn't run since April, where he scored by 7 1/2 lengths in the grade I Royal Chase at Keeneland but should be ready for a solid effort after a second-place finish in an NSA training flat race Sept. 28 at Foxfield in Virginia.
"He had his last work on Sunday, and did it nicely," said Hendriks, who seeks her first Breeders' Cup triumph. "It was more of a maintenance work because he had a good race on the flat and that brings him along pretty nicely. It's really tempting to give him a hard work, but I try not to overdo it."
Hendriks, like most steeplechase trainers, is based on a farm and her horses work out on an uphill turf gallop in final preparations for a race. McDynamo covered the main five-furlong distance twice (with a short rest in between) and a shorter, steeper section once.
Moran spent $82,000 to buy the yearling McDynamo at Keeneland in 1998, and raced the horse on the flat after selling a half-interest to Canadian owner Steve McDonald. Troublesome in the starting gate, McDynamo won twice in nine flat starts and moved to steeplechasing in October 2001. When McDonald didn't want to own a jumper, Moran bought out the partner and has watched McDynamo earn more than $300,000 as a steeplechaser. An Eclipse Award could be next as a win would surely lock away the steeplechase championship.
McDynamo faces seven rivals, none as accomplished but all looking for an upset.
Second choice Indispensable comes off back-to-back quality starts including a win in the T. Rowe Price Legacy Chase three weeks ago for leading trainer Jack Fisher. The 9-year-old has never won a grade I stakes, but was a fast-closing third in the New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga. Irish jockey Paddy Young (four wins this fall) has the mount.
Pelagos can make his case for championship honors with a victory for trainer Bruce Miller. The gray French-bred scored a grade I victory in the Iroquois in May at the marathon 3-mile distance. Fourth in the Breeders' Cup last year, Pelagos will enjoy the 2 5/8-mile distance and gets the services of veteran jockey Chip Miller.
Trainer Kathy Neilson entered three horses -- Mulahen, Trebizond and Mr Perkolater. Bred in England, the former won a Saratoga allowance and comes off two decent stakes efforts. Most recently, Mulahen was third behind Indispensable in the Legacy Chase at Shawan Downs. David Bentley, champion jockey of 2002 and the current leader, has the call. Trebizond won two grade I novice stakes this spring, but has struggled with three straight defeats vs. open company. The Irish-bred son of Sadler's Wells improves on soft turf and could be a factor on his best effort. Jody Petty gets the ride. Mr Perkolater finished behind McDynamo in two races last year and was a well-beaten eighth in the Legacy Cup.
Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard entered Hotspur, who is winless since April 2002. The 6-year-old son of Pine Bluff was beaten just six lengths in the Turf Writers and stretches out to the longest race of his career. Called "one-paced" by Sheppard, Hotspur could be the likely pacesetter under Tom Foley.
Hendriks also entered Lord Zada, named by Gallo as the second choice at 3-1 and a talented competitor who could threaten the favorite. If Lord Zada runs. The 10-year-old is also entered in the $50,000 Appleton (a 2 1/8-mile stakes) on the Far Hills card. Idle since April 2002, Lord Zada finished second in the 2001 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase.
The Breeders' Cup Steeplechase will be televised as part of the Long John Silver's Wire to Wire program on ESPN2 at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 23.
The field in post position order:
PP, Horse, Owner, Trainer, Jockey, ML
1. Indispensable, Edie Dixon, Jack Fisher, Paddy Young, 4-1
2. Lord Zada, Augustin Stable, Sanna Hendriks, No rider, 3-1
3. Mulahen, Gillian Johnston, Kathy Neilson, David Bentley, 8-1
4. Trebizond, Bill Lickle, Kathy Neilson, Jody Petty, 10-1
5. Mr Perkolater, Gillian Johnston, Kathy Neilson, Rob Massey, 20-1
6. McDynamo, Michael Moran, Sanna Hendriks, Craig Thornton, 6-5
7. Hotspur, Peachtree Stable, Jonathan Sheppard, Tom Foley, 15-1
8. Pelagos, Michael Hoffman, Bruce Miller, Chip Miller, 6-1