07/15/2005 12:00AM

Softest spot in several years for McDynamo

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McDynamo, the Eclipse Award-winning steeplechase horse of 2003, races in something other than a Grade 1 stakes for the first time in nearly three years in Sunday's David L. "Zeke" Ferguson Memorial Hurdle Stakes at Colonial Downs.

The Grade 3 Ferguson, which will be contested at 2 1/4 miles, drew just five entrants, including the 2003 winner, Anofferucantrefuse.

The 8-year-old , trained by Sanna Hendriks, could be in need of a confidence booster after losing his last three starts, including two this spring.

During his illustrous career, in which he has won 9 of 14 hurdle races and $610,604, McDynamo captured back-to-back runnings of the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase at Far Hills, N.J., in 2003 and 2004. The last time he raced in anything other than a Grade 1 was in October 2002, when he romped by 19 lengths in the Grade 2 Foxbrook at Far Hills.

The field includes one other Grade 1 winner, . But it has been nearly two years since Praise the Prince won the New York Turf Writers Handicap at Saratoga, and at 10 he may have lost a few steps. In three starts this season, all on the flat, Praise the Prince has been devoid of speed and showed the ability to close only once.

, an 8-year-old trained by Tom Voss, won back to back graded hurdle stakes in the summer of 2003, but was laid off from August of that year until this April. He hasn't been competitive in two starts this season.

The 9-year-old Understood and 5-year-old Paradise's Boss both come into the Ferguson off victories against lesser company than McDynamo has been regularly facing.

Understood appears to be a good fit at this level after beating five horses in a Grade 3 contested at two miles in May.

Paradise's Boss most recently cruised in a 14-horse restricted hurdle stakes at Belmont at odds of 34-1.