04/22/2005 12:00AM

Hirapour wins Royal Chase

Bill Straus
Hirapour wins the Grade 1, $159,250 Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings at Keeneland on Friday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - As the field turned into the stretch for the third and final time Friday at Keeneland, the stage was set for a dramatic duel between the last two Eclipse Award winners in the steeplechase category. But it wasn't to be. A relentless run by Hirapour, the 2004 Eclipse champion, proved too much, and he proceeded to a convincing victory in the Grade 1, $159,250 for the Sport of Kings over the 2003 champ, McDynamo.

Hirapour, ridden by Matt McCarron, drew clear in the final stages of the about 2 1/2-mile Royal Chase to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths over late-running Sur La Tete, who had another 3 1/2 lengths on McDynamo.

Hirapour, trained by Doug Fout, returned $6.80 as second choice in a field of eight. It was the second straight year Hirapour, a 9-year-old Irish-bred gelding by Kahyasi, had captured the Royal Chase. McDynamo won in 2003.

Tres Touche led most of the way, with McDynamo pursuing closest. Into the final turn, Hirapour suddenly passed several horses to reach serious contention, and after briefly racing stride-for-stride with McDynamo, he edged away. The winning time was 4:42.08 over a firm course.