04/18/2007 12:00AM

Different look to this Royal Chase


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Even casual horse racing fans might be aware that two horses have dominated North American steeplechasing over the last few years: McDynamo and Hirapour. And when the jumping set makes its annual pilgrimage to Keeneland every April, one or both of those chasing legends usually has been in the field for the Grade 1 Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings.

But not Friday. For the first time since 2002, none of the 11 horses in the $150,000 Royal Chase is named McDynamo or Hirapour, which gives the about 2 1/2-mile race a different feel than in recent runnings.

Mixed Up could be a slight choice in the Royal Chase. An 8-year-old gelding by Carnivalay, Mixed Up enjoyed the most productive year of his career in 2006, highlighted by a victory in the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers in August at Saratoga. Mixed Up, trained by Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard, will be making his seasonal debut in the Royal Chase.

One of his more formidable challengers is Racey Dreamer, an A.P. Indy gelding who was sensational winning all four of his races over jumps in 2004. Racey Dreamer suffered a deep laceration in a front tendon in the last of those wins, the Ferguson Memorial at Colonial Downs, forcing trainer Doug Fout to give him ample time to recover fully.

Racey Dreamer has finished second within the last month in two non-sanctioned 1 1/2-mile races on the flat, one in Virginia and one in South Carolina, said Fout.

"I think he's back to his old form and is probably a little stronger," said Fout. "He was just hand-ridden in his two races back."

Other possibilities Friday include Paradise's Boss, Chivite, Preemptive Strike, and Party Airs.

The Royal Chase is run over 52-inch-high fences. The race will start on the backstretch of the Keeneland turf course, with the third time past the finish line being the one for the money. During their 2 1/2 circuits, the horses will make 13 jumps.

McDynamo, a three-time Eclipse Award champion, won the 2003 Royal Chase, and Hirapour captured the 2004 and 2005 renewals.

This year, Hirapour is retired, while McDynamo, now 10, and Sur La Tete - who won last year's Royal Chase by a race-record 10 lengths - will make their seasonal debuts in the May 12 Iroquois in Nashville, Tenn.

* The Royal Chase is part of Keeneland's $100,000-guaranteed pick four, a 50-cent bet on races 7 through 10.