Edited from press release--Eclipse Award candidates Hirapour, McDynamo and Preemptive Strike lead a group of eight Thoroughbreds nominated to the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I) Oct. 12. The $200,000 race headlines New Jersey's Far Hills Races Saturday, Oct. 22 and will--as usual--help determine the year's steeplechase champion. Entries for North America's richest jump race close Tuesday, Oct. 18 with the National Steeplechase Association. Michael Moran's McDynamo tries to make history with his third consecutive win in the race, a 2 5/8-mile test over 14 fences, but must reverse a 2005 season that has included three seconds and a third in four starts. The 2003 Eclipse Award winner has never lost at Far Hills and will face 2004 Eclipse champion Hirapour in yet another showdown.
Trainer Sanna Hendriks hopes the familiar course halts the losing for her horse, an 8-year-old son of Dynaformer.
"He's been beaten a few times this year so people start doubting him," said Hendriks. "I haven't doubted him because things maybe haven't set up quite perfectly for him. (To win a third) would be a huge accomplishment because there have been some good horses that have done it twice." Run 13 times, the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase counts among its past two-time victors Highland Bud (1989, 1992), Morley Street (1990, 1991) and McDynamo(2003, 2004). In his bid for a third in 1993, Highland Bud ran second. In 2004, McDynamo won the battle with a Breeders' Cup victory over Hirapour but lost the war when the latter closed the season with a win in the Colonial Cup (NSA-I) to take home the Eclipse Award. Eldon Farm's Hirapour, an Irish-bred son of Kahyasi, leads the NSA earnings list this season with $208,025 including Grade I scores in the Royal Chase at Keeneland in April and the New York Turf Writers Cup (NSA-II) in September at Saratoga. The 9-year-old, trained in Virginia by Doug Fout, has won five times in nine American jump starts but has yet to win back-to-back starts. Coming off the Turf Writers score, the Breeders' Cup would be an ideal place to make it two wins in a row. "He came out of the race at Saratoga better than he's come out of a race in a long time and I feel very confident," said Fout. "Plus we'll have some different tactics this year than we did last year. We won't wait quite as long." In 2004, McDynamo easily took the lead on the final run down the backstretch and was able to coast while bracing for Hirapour's late run in the final quarter-mile. McDynamo won by 1 1/2 lengths. One name missing from the nomination list is Sur La Tete. Second behind Hirapour on the 2005 earnings list, the Grade I winner is recovering from a training setback and will aim for the Colonial Cup in November. He was third in the 2004 Breeders' Cup, a half-length behind Hirapour. The race gains another rugged competitor in Preemptive Strike. Polaris Stable's flashy chestnut touted his readiness with an emphatic score in the Somerset Medical Center Stakes (NSA-II) at The Meadowlands Oct. 1. Trained in Pennsylvania by Paul Rowland, Preemptive Strike opened a 30-length lead and had plenty left to turn back McDynamo by five lengths in the stretch. The Maryland-bred is 2-for-3 this year and stands fourth on the earnings list with $95,000. Not quite as accomplished as his chief rivals, Preemptive Strike nevertheless has won $300,000 as a steeplechaser and will be a factor with his early speed. "All he wants to do is run and jump," said Rowland. "If he can switch off a little bit more (than he did at The Meadowlands), it will be better. Hopefully I can back him off just a little bit more to chill him out. The horse always digs in and if he gets beat it's just by a better horse." Others in the field include three from owner Calvin Houghland and trainer Bruce Miller. European imports Bow Strada, Chivite, and Mon Villez have yet to prove themselves at the Grade I level but Houghland and Miller teamed up to take the 2000 running with All Gong. Owner/trainer Jonathan Sheppard nominated Three Carat, who was second to Hirapour in the Turf Writers and third behind Preemptive Strike and McDynamo in the Somerset. Whitewood Farm's Understood, a Grade III stakes winner this year and the fourth-place finisher in the Turf Writers, completes the group. The nomination list (with owner, trainer and lifetime steeplechase
earnings). All starters will carry 156 pounds under weight-for-age
conditions. Bow Strada (GB), Calvin Houghland, Bruce Miller, $142,766
Chivite (Ire), Calvin Houghland, Bruce Miller, $81,489.
Hirapour (Ire), Eldon Farm, Doug Fout, $528,317.
McDynamo, Michael Moran, Sanna Hendriks, $633,014.
Mon Villez (Fr), Calvin Houghland, Bruce Miller, $202,254.
Preemptive Strike. Polaris Stable, Paul Rowland, $305,654.
Three Carat, Jonathan Sheppard, Jonathan Sheppard, $102,906.
Understood, Whitewood Farm, Richard Valentine, $128,438.