McDynamo, Sur La Tete Clash in Royal Chase

(from NSA release)
Steeplechase stars McDynamo and Sur La Tete tower over a field of eight drawn for the eighth running of the Royal Chase (NSA-I) at Keeneland Friday.

The 2 1/2-mile, 13-fence race (Friday's ninth, with a 5:15 p.m. post time) carries a purse of $150,000 -- the second highest figure on the National Steeplechase Association calendar -- and fittingly drew two of the game's best. Michael Moran's McDynamo owns Eclipse Awards from 2003 and 2005 to go with his $833,104 in lifetime jump earnings. Kinross Farm's Sur La Tete defeated McDynamo twice in 2005 and has earned $443,225. The Kentucky-breds, both making their 2006 steeplechase debuts, are far and away the most accomplished horses in the race.

Trained in Pennsylvania by Sanna Hendriks, McDynamo, by Dynaformer, was installed as a slight favorite at 8-5. The 9-year-old also carries high weight of 166 pounds, yielding between eight and 32 to the others in the field. Regular jockey Jody Petty gets the call. Hendriks expects another good effort from her stable star, who closed 2005 with back-to-back grade I victories to sew up his second Eclipse title as champion steeplechaser.

At Keeneland last year, McDynamo was rank early and had little left for late runners Hirapour and Sur La Tete in the stretch. Changing to a ring bit and getting a new jockey (Petty) helped the relaxation process and produced a better McDynamo last fall.

Sur La Tete presents a stiff challenge as the race's 2-1 second choice. He hasn't run since taking the measure of McDynamo in the Iroquois (NSA-I) last May, sitting out the fall season with a foot injury. Trained in Virginia by Neil Morris, the 8-year-old son of Sky Classic receives eight pounds from his chief rival and brings a streak of eight consecutive top-three finishes to Keeneland. Regular jockey Chris Read rides Sur La Tete.

McDynamo and Sur La Tete have met four times in steeplechase races, with Sur La Tete finishing ahead of his rival three times. Three weeks ago, they faced off in a National Steeplechase Association training flat race, which carries no purse and is listed as a workout by Equibase and Daily Racing Form, at the Carolina Cup in Camden, S.C. McDynamo won the 1 1/2-mile turf test by 3 1/2 lengths.

"I was really happy with his race," said Hendriks of McDynamo. "Mentally, I think it helps. It's probably nice to come back and have a little win. At the same time, Sur La Tete is going to improve off that flat run because he hadn't run since May. I know he will be tough."

The most likely upset threat is Erin Go Bragh. The New Zealand import won a stakes last fall on the Breeders' Cup undercard and finished second in his only 2006 start, the $35,000 Little Everglades Stakes in Florida last month. Matt McCarron, who won the 2005 Royal Chase with Hirapour, rides for trainer Doug Fout.

Whitewood Stable's Mauritania exits a third in the Georgia Cup (NSA-II) April 15 at Kingston, Ga. Trainer Richard Valentine wheels the 9-year-old back on six days rest under a feathery 138 pounds.

$150,000 Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings Hurdle (NSA-I), 4 & Up 2 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse (with Owner, Trainer, Jockey, ML Odds):
1. Mauritania (Whitewood Farm, Richard Valentine, Rob Massey, 15-1)
2. Sur La Tete (Kinross Farm, Neil Morris, Chris Read, 2-1)
3. Feeling So Pretty (Lee McKinney, owner, Richard Boucher, 20-1)
4. Erin Go Bragh (Brigadoon Stable, Doug Fout, Matt McCarron, 6-1)
5. McDynamo (Michael Moran, Sanna Hendriks, Jody Petty, 8-5)
6. Free Admission (Bill Pape, Jonathan Sheppard, Danielle Hodsdon, 10-1)
7. Capital Peak (Augustin Stable, Sanna Hendriks, Shelley Houston, 25-1)
8. Swoop And Soar (Otto Stolz, Ricky Hendriks, Xavier Aizpuru, 30-1)