08/31/2006 11:00PM

Hirapour's injury could end career

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Hirapour, the steeplechase champion of 2004, was injured in the New York Turf Writers Cup on Thursday at Saratoga, possibly ending his career a few months earlier than expected.

Trainer Doug Fout said that the 10-year gelding, who was scheduled to be retired at the end of the season, came out of the race with damage to his right front ankle and was lame Friday morning.

"Unfortuantely, I think he might have a chip in his ankle," Fout said.

Fout said he did not know whether surgery would be needed. Hirapour was sent to Morven Park in Leesburg, Va., Friday to be examined. He underwent surgery on his left front ankle in November and returned to competition on Aug. 10 with a victory in the A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga

The Grade 1 Turf Writers Cup was the first major test on a schedule that Fout hoped would yield another Eclipse Award for the Eldon Farm-owned gelding. Hirapour, carrying high weight of 164 pounds, and rider Matthew McCarron sat back in the pack, several lengths off the pace set by Mark the Shark for almost two miles. When McCarron put him in position to make his run entering the backstretch the final time, Hirapour nearly fell going over the fence and then had no response.

"He jumped the first on the back badly, sort of stabbed at it," Fout said, "and Matt said he went from a ton of horse to absolutely nothing, nothing in the tank at all. Something had to happen there."