11/14/2008 12:00AM

Few challenge Good Night Shirt


Good Night Shirt, the 2007 steeplechase champion and a lock to repeat this year, tries to complete a perfect season in Sunday's Grade 1 Colonial Cup Steeplechase at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C.

Owned by Sonny Via and trained by Jack Fisher, the 7-year-old Good Night Shirt faces just four rivals in the $150,000 race over 2 3/4 miles and 17 fences.

Created in 1970, the Cup has always been a proving ground. The superstars McDynamo, Lonesome Glory, and Zaccio each won the race three times. The legendary Flatterer won four straight in the 1980s.

Good Night Shirt took the 2007 running and is a chalky favorite to repeat - even though there is no parimutuel wagering.

"There's not that much else to say about him," said Willie Dowling, Good Night Shirt's regular jockey. "He's as ready as ever so we'll see how everything goes out there on the course. My job will be to see that he gets into a rhythm with his jumping."

Good Night Shirt comes in with four wins in as many starts - all Grade 1's - this year. He has earned $395,520 to break the single-season earnings record he set last year. A win Sunday would complete one of the truly great campaigns in American steeplechase history.

Bred in Maryland, Good Night Shirt started in April's Georgia Cup. The two-mile race turned into a sprint late and Good Night Shirt got up in the final yards. In May, he stretched to three miles and won the Iroquois for the second year in a row. He returned in September to capture the 2 1/2-mile Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park. Last month, he dominated the $250,000 Grand National - a 2 5/8-mile race that eluded him in 2007.

"It was nice to take the monkey off his back, good to get it done there after last year," said Dowling. "He was relaxed and very good for me. For the horse to win there was something special."

Dark Equation looms the leading challenger, thanks to a Grade 1 win in the New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga. Fifth in the Lonesome Glory, he skipped the Grand National in favor of this race.

Stakes veteran Preemptive Strike should set the pace and is capable enough to hang around late.

Third in the Grand National, Best Attack has chased Good Night Shirt home three times this year. The longshot Pleasant Pick completes the field.

The Cup headlines a six-race card worth $240,000. First post is 12:30 p.m. Eastern with the feature set for about 2:30.