11/15/2007 12:00AM

McDynamo may leap his last

EmailWere it not for a certain steeplechasing superstar, Michael Moran at least would be known as both owner and trainer of Silent Roar, who beat Breeders' Cup Mile winner Kip Deville on the square at Monmouth in August. In addition, Moran could, if he wanted, claim bragging rights as co-breeder of Hard Spun, the multi-purpose 3-year-old who held his own against Curlin and Street Sense all season long.

But even such admirable achievements tend to pale when compared to the ownership of McDynamo, for McDynamo is an institution, an everlasting chunk of horse racing history, the kind of transcendant athlete that keeps his people awake nights wondering how long the adventure can last.

The tale continues on Sunday at the Colonial Cup in South Carolina, where McDynamo will try to win America's oldest and most respected jumping prize for the third straight year and fourth time in his career. Coming on the heels of his unprecedented fifth straight victory in the Breeders' Cup Grand National Steeplechase, McDynamo's appearance might seem anticlimactic. But the Colonial Cup course at Camden is a star in its own right, with 2 3/4 miles' worth of testing hurdles that only the greatest jumpers have mastered.

That means McDynamo will need to be at his leaping best to handle the challenge on Sunday from Iroquois Hurdle winner Good Night Shirt, among others. Win or lose, though, Moran says there's a good chance the Colonial Cup will be the last time McDynamo's legion of fans will be able to see him perform.

"It becomes more and more nerve-wracking, and the longer you run them the more you become attached to them," Moran said. "It's not written in stone, but I think Sunday might be the swan song for this horse."

If Sunday is indeed goodbye for McDynamo, the entire Thoroughbred world should pause at least for a moment to recognize his impact. Few horses have been able to sustain such excellence at the top of the difficult jumping game for so long - Flatterer and Lonesome Glory come immediately to mind - and even though McDynamo is making only his third start of 2007, his mere presence in the stable of Sanna Hendriks has been enough to have the rest of the game looking over its shoulder, waiting for the champ to appear.

Moran, 53, is the son of noted breeder and owner Betty Moran. He trains about two dozen flat runners at his Applestone Farm and training center near Unionville, Pa. After buying McDynamo for $82,000 as a yearling, he ran the horse nine times on the flat, winning twice.

"He was a quirky horse when I had him on the flat, and he's always been claustrophobic while Sanna has had him," Moran said. "He's either turned out with a pony in the paddock or tied up in his stall, because he's a horrible stallwalker.

"There's a phobia about the gate, as well. When I had him at Saratoga I gate-schooled him for an hour and a half the day that he ran in a two-other-than," he said, adding that Bobby Duncan, the official starter, told him, "This horse has some serious issues with the gate. You might want to think about starting his steeplchase career sooner than later."

That was August of 2001. Two months later, McDynamo was entered in a maiden jump race at Far Hills and won handily. The rest has been hard-fought history, for few horses have mastered the art of the Big Game better than McDynamo. Of his 24 races over barriers, nine have come in the two premier events of the game - the Colonial Cup and the Breeders' Cup - and McDynamo has won eight of those nine.

"My horse is a brilliant jumper," Moran said, and no one argued. "Part of his excellence is his ability to make up ground over jumps. The Colonial Cup has those man-made fences, and he flies over those."

Such excellence has taken its toll.

"He's been under the knife three times," Moran said. "We took a chip out of a hind ankle at the end of his 3-year-old year. Dean Richardson at New Bolton put some screws in his hock at the end of his 5-year-old year. And then we took a chip out of another ankle this year.

"He also has his bleeder issues, so we don't even attempt to run him in the summertime," Moran added. "But once he gets to the fall, he's like a flower. He just blooms, getting better and better."

One more blossoming on Sunday would put the perfect note to the end of a Hall of Fame career. After that, like all pensioned warriors, it will be time to let McDynamo be another kind of horse.

"He's got a second career ahead of him fox hunting," Moran said, "something he can enjoy and we can enjoy for another five or six years. I used to take him out with hounds as a 2-year-old, when he was just starting out. He was very immature, very backwards, and about the only thing he really enjoyed was being out with a bunch of horses, popping over logs and stuff."

And while it will be hard to pull the curtain on such a remarkable career, the pragmatic horseman in Moran knows it will be for the best.

"He's going to be 11 years old," Moran said. "All he could do at some point is slip down the ladder, and we really don't want to see that. We owe him a lot, and he doesn't owe us anything."