(edited press release)
Champion steeplechaser McDynamo attempts to extend his history-making streak of success in the Breeders' Cup Grand National (NSA-I) Oct. 20 at the Far Hills Races in Far Hills, N.J.
The Grand National, the most valuable steeplechase in North America at $300,000, attracted a field of 10 Thoroughbreds including Good Night Shirt, the leading earner among steeplechasers this year. The highlight of a six-race card worth $600,000, the Grand National will be the fourth race with a probable post of 2:45 p.m. (EST).
McDynamo is bidding for his fifth win in the race, a 2 5/8-mile test over 14 fences. Owned by Michael Moran, the 10-year-old will have to improve on his only start this year -- a fourth behind Good Night Shirt in the Iroquois Hurdle Stakes (NSA-I) in May. Trainer Sanna Hendriks expects a good effort from her stable star, who will be ridden by regular jockey Jody Petty.
Despite being away from the races for more than five months, McDynamo enters with a solid chance at completing the five-pack, according to Hendriks.
"It's always a challenge any time you're coming into a race like this without another race to get you there," said Hendriks from her Pennsylvania base. "He always seems to run well fresh so we're hoping that will be to our advantage. He seems like he's doing great -- fresh and happy and he's in good form."
McDynamo has never lost over the New Jersey course, winning a maiden hurdle there in 2001, a novice stakes (the Foxbrook) in 2002, and the last four runnings of the Breeders' Cup. The son of Dynaformer will try to use the "home-course advantage" as a springboard to a fourth Eclipse Award as champion steeplechaser. McDynamo won the title in 2003, 2005, and 2006.
Good Night Shirt, a new star in the stakes ranks, stands in his way. Owned by Sonny Via and trained in Maryland by Jack Fisher, the 6-year-old owns two grade I wins this season and comes off a powerful victory in the Lonesome Glory Hurdle Stakes (NSA-I) at Belmont Park Sept. 22. The key prep race turned into another statement for Good Night Shirt, who ran off to win the Iroquois by 5 1/4 lengths. In his first start of 2007, he finished second in the Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings Hurdle Stakes (NSA-I) at Keeneland.
Fisher likes his horse's path into the race, pointing out that Good Night Shirt improved from Keeneland to Nashville in the spring.
"He worked at Fair Hill (a half-mile in 50 seconds) just like he worked before the Belmont race, so I'm happy," said the trainer. "I've only run two horses in the Breeders' Cup, and I've never run one you could say had as much chance as he does. My dream trip would be for us to stalk McDynamo, but if we're in front that's OK too."
Beyond the top pair, the field includes several upset threats.
EMO Stable's Orison comes off a late-running second behind Good Night Shirt in the Lonesome Glory for Virginia-based trainer Doug Fout. The chestnut son of Pulpit won a novice stakes this spring and has finished off the board just twice in a 12-start steeplechase career. Regular jockey Matt McCarron rides.
New Zealand-bred mare Sweet Shani finished fourth in the Lonesome Glory and before that was a solid third in the A.P. Smithwick Memorial at Saratoga for owner Calvin Houghland and Pennsylvania-based trainer Jonathan Sheppard. A three-time winner over jumps in Australia before being imported in 2006, the 7-year-old should appreciate the added distance at Far Hills. Xavier Aizpuru, the leading jockey on the National Steeplechase Association circuit, takes the call.
All horses carry 156 pounds, except for Sweet Shani, who will carry 150 because she is a mare.
The Breeders' Cup Grand National will air Saturday on TVG between 3:30-6 p.m. (EST).
The complete field, in post-position order (with owner, trainer, and jockey):
1. Three Carat (Jonathan Sheppard, Sheppard, Danielle Hodsdon)
2. McDynamo (Michael Moran, Sanna Hendriks, Jody Petty)
3. Best Attack (Sally Radclifffe, Bruce Miller, Chip Miller)
4. Good Night Shirt (Sonny Via, Jack Fisher, Willie Dowling)
5. Chivite (Calvin Houghland, Bruce Miller, Paddy Young)
6. Underbidder (Timber Bay Farm, Jonathan Sheppard, James Slater)
7. Your A Gassman (Lucy Horner, Gary Brown, no rider)
8. Orison (EMO Stable, Doug Fout, Matt McCarron)
9. Sweet Shani (Calvin Houghland, Jonathan Sheppard, Xavier Aizpuru)
10. Luongo (Lucy Lindsay, Calvin Houghland, James Slater)