01/26/2007 12:00AM

McDynamo hurtles into the record books


Forego did it. So did Cigar. Many years ago, Seabiscuit, too. And Secretariat, John Henry, and Kelso. Every once in awhile, Thoroughbred horses elevate beyond the racetrack and reach the status of cultural icon - taking people along for the ride. In six seasons of steeplechasing, McDynamo has risen from maiden to millionaire while stirring awe in owner Michael Moran, trainer Sanna Hendriks, and countless witnesses at racecourses in New Jersey, South Carolina, Kentucky, and beyond.

On Monday McDynamo was honored with his third Eclipse Award as champion steeplechase horse.

McDynamo won 3 of 4 starts in 2006 and finished with $285,000 in earnings (tops among steeplechasers) and a spot atop the career earnings list for American steeplechasers with $1,118,104. The Eclipse winner in 2003 and 2005 as well, he joins Oedipus, Neji, Bon Nouvel, Zaccio, Flatterer, and Lonesome Glory as steeplechasing's only three-time champions.

Left nearly speechless after each of the 9-year-old gelding's wins in 2006, Moran compared McDynamo to momentous achievements.

"It's probably the best thing that's ever happened in my life other than my family," he said. "It's pretty amazing. I'm a fan too."

McDynamo opened 2006 with a dud, pulling up behind Sur La Tete and the others in the Grade 1 Royal Chase at Keeneland in April. Shipping fever derailed the horse's next start, so Moran and Hendriks regrouped for the fall and a three-race schedule - the Somerset Medical Center Stakes at the Meadowlands and two Grade 1's, the Breeders' Cup Grand National and the Colonial Cup.

A son of Dynaformer, McDynamo won all three, vaulting his way past spring star Sur La Tete, summer Grade 1 winner Mixed Up, and longtime rival Hirapour in the standings.

At the $250,000 Breeders' Cup on Oct. 28, McDynamo improved to an improbable 6-0 over the Far Hills, N.J., course. The streak incudes four consecutive Breeders' Cup victories, and last year's was as devastating as ever. Racing over a saturated turf course, McDynamo took the lead on the final run down the backside and turned the race into a public schooling session while winning by 22 lengths despite the mud, wind, and rain. The margin could have been 122.

"He makes it feel pretty easy, and this year was even easier than last year," said his rider, Jody Petty. "Around the bottom turn, I couldn't believe how much he gave me. He was moving so well and going so well. I was amazed when I turned around and looked and saw how much we opened up. He just cantered in."

His season finale victory, in the $150,000 Colonial Cup on Nov. 19, was much more dramatic. Upstart pacesetter Mon Villez led the field to the top of the stretch before McDynamo pulled alongside before the second-last fence. Poised to draw off, the champion instead got a response from Mon Villez, who battled back while late-running Hirapour launched a bid in third. Mon Villez and McDynamo jumped the last on even terms and sprinted through the stretch with McDynamo easing out to a one-length win. Hirapour was a half-length back in third.

"When I needed it, he gave it to me," Petty said afterward. "That's what makes him the amazing horse he is. No matter what, he puts his all out, and he put his all out today. That was not easy."

The victory sewed up the National Steeplechase Association earnings title and gave McDynamo his third win in the historic race (joining Lonesome Glory and four-time winner Flatterer). In the face of such rare and continuous achievement, Hendriks credited the horse's character.

"He has an unbelievable determination to win," she said. "You don't know if they're going to have it until they need it, and he came up with it. And to keep coming up with performances like that is phenomenal." And historic.

* VOTING: McDynamo, 239; Sur La Tete, 6; Hirapour (IRE) 2; Mixed Up 1; Voter abstentions, 23.