01/27/2004 1:00AM

McDynamo blows 'em away

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A flawless campaign in the season's most important races earned the Eclipse Award for champion steeplechase horse of 2003.

Voters heavily supported McDynamo with 225 first-place votes. McDynamo made only three starts in 2003, but looked simply spectacular winning each of those Grade 1's under Craig Thornton.

Trained by Sanna Hendriks and owned by Michael J. Moran, McDynamo won his first start of 2003 in the Royal Chase Handicap at Keeneland on April 25. The 6-year-old came from off the pace with a strong move in the stretch to win the 2 1/2-mile race by 7 1/2 lengths.

Hendriks, who trained the 2001 steeplechase champion, Pompeyo, gave McDynamo the summer off with the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase in Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 18 as her main objective.

In the 2 5/8-mile Breeders' Cup, Thornton placed McDynamo within striking distance of the front-runner, Indispensable, who was crawling through slow early pace. Thornton had no choice but to go with McDynamo, and the gelding forged to the front after a mile. After sailing over 14 fences, McDynamo won the race by a record margin of 15 1/4 lengths.

His win in the Breeders' Cup surely sealed the championship for McDynamo, but Hendriks was eager to complete the season with a win in the prestigious Colonial Cup at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., on Nov. 16.

McDynamo took the lead turning for home in the 2 3/4-mile Colonial Cup and recorded a four-length win in course-record time of 5:05.40. Hendriks, who is married to fellow steeplechase trainer, Ricky Hendriks, was not on hand for McDynamo's win in the Colonial Cup because she gave birth to their son, Parker, the day before.

Moran bought McDynamo, a Kentucky-bred son of Dynaformer bred by Richard and Nathan Fox and Richard Kaster, for $82,000 at Keeneland as a yearling. Moran owned and trained McDynamo on the flat, where the gelding won 2 of 9 starts, before he began his career as a jumper in 2001.

In his acceptance speech Monday evening in Florida, Moran urged owners of flat runners to give their horses a second chance over jumps.

"Steeplechasing can extend those opportunities," Moran said. "It's a way to productively extend those careers."