Hirapour Closes in On Eclipse With Cup Win

(from NSA report)
Matt McCarron rallied Eldon Farm Racing Stable's steeplechase star Hirapour through the stretch to win the $100,000 Marion du Pont Scott Colonial Cup (NSA-I) at Springdale Race Course in course record time Sunday.

The winner covered the 2 3/4 miles and 17 fences in 5:04 3/5, which surpassed McDynamo's mark of 5:05 2/5 set last year.

Rated behind the pace of Preemptive Strike early, the winner advanced to fourth behind that one, Sur La Tete and McDynamo leaving the backstretch. Hirapour stalked on the rail around the final turn, reached even terms at the last fence and drew off to win by 3 3/4 lengths for trainer Doug Fout.

Preemptive Strike stayed on for second with Sur La Tete third and favorite McDynamo fourth.

Second behind McDynamo in the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I) four weeks ago, Hirapour turned the tables thanks to some tactical changes by Fout and McCarron.

"We weren't as far out the back today, and I can't say I thought I'd be ahead of McDynamo early but we were," said McCarron, nephew of Hall of Fame flat jockey Chris.

"I was never less than two lengths behind him the whole way, and that made a difference. He was very competitive when I needed him to be, and he just wore that other horse (Preemptive Strike) down and was absolutely legless exhausted when he pulled up. He gave every bit of his heart in the stretch."

Hirapour ran his 2004 record to two wins and two seconds in four starts, and gained the inside position for the steeplechase Eclipse Award. His $199,625 in yearly earnings (including $60,000 in the Colonial Cup) are second to Sur La Tete in the National Steeplechase Association standings, but Hirapour won both of their meetings. Last year's champion McDynamo had his winning streak stopped at six and lost a chance for a repeat Eclipse.

For Fout, the win was a repeat of his victory as a jockey aboard Sailor's Clue in 1980. The Virginia-based trainer was touched by the history involved in duplicating that feat as a trainer. Run for the 35th time, the Colonial Cup has been won by 14 champions and three hall of fame members.

"I won it riding and I've been trying to win and trying to win it as a trainer," he said. "It's coming back like it was yesterday. There's nothing like this race. The history is here, and you always have all the best horses in the country just like we did today."

Five horses (Hirapour, Preemptive Strike, Sur La Tete, McDynamo and Tres Touche) came into the 2004 race with legitimate Eclipse Award aspirations, and Fout's horse seized the opportunity with his best effort.

"This is a true course and usually the best horse wins," said Fout. "To have all the horses here today run, and to win is just fantastic."

Bred in Ireland by the Aga Khan Stud, Hirapour was imported by Ken Luke's Eldon Farm last summer after winning five times in England. The 8-year-old son of Kahyasi improved to 3-for-5 with two seconds and $259,625 earned in his U.S. career. He opened 2004 with a win in the Royal Chase (NSA-I) at Keeneland in April, and skipped the summer in favor of a fall campaign.

McCarron capped a banner season as the NSA's champion jockey with 24 wins and $600,000 in earnings. Jack Fisher wrapped up his second straight training title with 27 wins and $575,000. The owner title goes to Kinross Farm with just shy of $400,000.