01/27/2006 12:00AM

McDynamo saved best for last

After starting the year 0 for 4, McDynamo finished strongly, winning the BC Steeplechase for the third straight time.

Like a mayoral candidate in a small town, McDynamo just keeps showing up. McDynamo, the steeplechase Eclipse Award winner in 2003 and finalist in 2004, won again as top steeplechase horse of 2005 on the strength of two Grade 1 wins and $265,425 in earnings.

Owned by Michael Moran and trained in Pennsylvania by Sanna Hendriks, McDynamo lost his first four starts of the season but closed with wins in the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase and the Colonial Cup over 2004 Eclipse champion Hirapour.

The scores saved a season and further confirmed McDynamo's place among steeplechasing's elite. Since swapping flat racing, where he was 2 for 9, for jumping in 2001, McDynamo has won 11 of 18 races and $833,104 - the second-highest earnings figure in the history of American jump racing. A gelded Kentucky-bred son of Dynaformer, McDynamo was an $82,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland in September 1998.

McDynamo's 2005 started like anything but a historic year. He opened with an unsettled third as the 3-2 favorite behind Hirapour and Sur La Tete in the Royal Chase at Keeneland. Three weeks later, he took on Sur La Tete in the Iroquois and again came up short as Sur La Tete prevailed by 2 1/2 lengths. McDynamo slipped exiting the final turn and was no match for the winner. Hendriks brought McDynamo out for a rare summer start in the Zeke Ferguson at Colonial Downs in July. Under new jockey Rob Massey, McDynamo went off at 1-2 but couldn't erase the easy lead of Paradise's Boss while settling for second.

McDynamo rested until fall, winless in three starts.

Hendriks, looking ahead to the $200,000 Breeders' Cup, a race McDynamo won in 2003 and 2004, watched the slump extend to four races with a second in the $75,000 Somerset Medical Center at The Meadowlands on Oct. 1. While she kept talking of confidence and circumstances, Hendriks wasn't totally sure about her horse.

"Every race he seemed to have a reason," she said. "I just felt like some of the races didn't set up quite right, and they are very good horses he was running against. There were so many people doubting him - 'Oh, he's lost a step.' - and I never really felt that way. I never lost confidence in him."

But she still worried. As it turned out, McDynamo saved his best for when it mattered. Under new jockey Jody Petty, McDynamo ran away with his third consecutive win in the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 22 - his fifth straight victory over the Far Hills, N.J., course. Five weeks later, he needed to win again - in a rematch with Hirapour in the $150,000 Colonial Cup. There, McDynamo seized the race with his bold jumping and repelled a stiff challenge from Hirapour in the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths and take the season series with Hirapour, 2-1.

"I feel so lucky to have the good horses I've had, and McDynamo's extraordinary," said Hendriks, who also won an Eclipse Award in 2001 with Pompeyo. "There's always someone who's going to come along and beat you, but that doesn't take anything away from your horse, and you've got to remember that."