Michael Moran's McDynamo, winner of the last three runnings of the Breeders' Cup Grand National Steeplechase (NSA-I), takes aim at history when he faces six others in the race's 2006 edition Saturday at the Far Hills Races in Far Hills, N.J.National Steeplechase Association director of racing Bill Gallo installed the 9-year-old as the 6-5 favorite as part of a mythical morning line made after entries Tuesday. Trained in Pennsylvania by Sanna Hendriks, McDynamo will break from the fifth position in the field of seven for the 2 5/8-mile, 14-fence race. Regular jockey Jody Petty will be aboard the Kentucky-bred son of Dynaformer, who will pass the unparalleled Lonesome Glory atop the NSA's career earnings list with a victory."I was doing pretty well until you put it that way," Hendriks said Tuesday in response to a question about the horse's historic possibilities. "It's nerve-wracking and it's very exciting. I'm feeling the pressure a little bit, but the horse doesn't seem to be feeling the pressure. It would be unbelievable to set the record, but he's a special horse."The $150,000 winner's share of the race would push McDynamo's lifetime steeplechase bankroll to $1,028,104 while also going a long way toward assuring a third Eclipse Award for the 2003 and 2005 champion. McDynamo comes off a victory in the $75,000 Somerset Medical Center Stakes (Gr. II) at the Meadowlands Sept. 29 and carries a perfect 5-0 mark over the Far Hills course.Every historical achievement deserves a foil, and McDynamo will have to defeat rival Hirapour -- himself a past steeplechase champion (2004). Owned by Eldon Farm and trained in Virginia by Doug Fout, the 10-year-old finished second in the 2004 Breeders' Cup and third last year (both to McDynamo). Hirapour won the $75,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial at Saratoga Aug. 10, and exits an emphatic training flat race victory at Morven Park (Va.) Oct. 14. The Irish import tries to complete a comeback from an ankle injury sustained in a fifth-place finish in the New York Turf Writers Cup (NSA-I) Aug. 31."About an hour after the Turf Writers I was ready to retire him but the owner wanted to try everything we could, and give Hirapour a chance," said Fout. "He's trained very well, is back on top of his game and has been an absolute bear for the last two weeks. He's 100 percent sound. He's coming up the race very well."Regular jockey Matt McCarron will be aboard 2-1 second choice Hirapour, who seeks his sixth grade I win.Third choice Mixed Up handled Hirapour in the Turf Writers and chased McDynamo home in the Somerset. In both cases, the 7-year-old received weight from the favorites. Owned by Bill Pape and trained in Pennsylvania by Jonathan Sheppard, Mixed Up will carry 156 pounds (like all starters) in the Breeders' Cup. Current leading jockey Danielle Hodsdon will be aboard the son of Carnivalay, listed as the 6-1 third choice.
Whitewood Farm's Mauritania (8-1) has placed in five stakes this year, but seeks his first win of 2006 for Virginia trainer Richard Valentine. Irish import Kilbeggan Lad (10-1) boasts seven wins in England and Ireland, but struggled in his only American start this summer. Brigadoon Stable's Lone Arrow (15-1) finished third in the Somerset and gives Fout a back-up to Hirapour. Irish import Chivite (20-1) comes off an optional claiming win at Philadelphia Park for Lonesome Glory's trainer Bruce Miller.