12/28/2007 12:00AM

Ask the Moon defies bleak early projection

EmailAsk the Moon's timing couldn't have been better. In her stakes debut, facing a number of contenders for the title of the best Maryland-bred 2-year-old filly of 2007, the Millicent Johnsen-owned Ask the Moon drew off to win the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes by an impressive 4 1/2 lengths on Dec. 22 at Laurel Park.

While a victory in that stakes doesn't guarantee divisional honors, the race will be fresh in the minds of voters. Ask the Moon's main rival for year-end honors, Sales Tax, hasn't started since late October.

Among the field of eight left in Ask the Moon's wake were Juvenile Filly favorite Hartigan and Kosmo's Buddy, who finished second and third, respectively.

Hartigan, a homebred running in the name of Robert Meyerhoff's Fitzhugh LLC, had taken the Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel in September. Arnold Smolen's homebred Kosmo's Buddy was beaten a neck by Hartigan in the Gin Talking and finished third in the Maryland Million Lassie. Any chance of either earning the championship title was dashed with Ask the Moon's powerful stretch run in the one-mile feature.

That Ask the Moon should win during the season of giving is entirely fitting, according to her co-breeder, Cynthia McGinnes. For if it hadn't been for generosity, the daughter of former Maryland stallion Malibu Moon would not be a story to tell.

The husband and wife team of Cynthia and Charles McGinnes, Maryland's breeders of the year in 2004, has long supported the young stallions who have entered stud at the Pons family's Country Life Farm in Bel Air, Md., including Malibu Moon, a son of A.P. Indy.

The McGinneses sent a mare to be bred to Malibu Moon in 2003, and she failed to produce a foal. Normally, they would get a return breeding the next year, but during the interim, Malibu Moon had become a hot commodity among the nation's sires and was on his way to Kentucky for the 2004 breeding season.

With the move, the contract was no longer valid, Charles McGinnes was told, and they would not get the return breeding.

"But because we were such longtime clients, the Ponses honored the return," said Charles McGinnes. "It was such a classy thing for them to do, so Cynthia and I decided we would add Country Life Farm as co-breeder of the resulting foal."

The McGinneses sent their mare, Always Asking, to Malibu Moon in 2004. Ask the Moon is the result.

Always Asking, by Valid Appeal, was purchased by the McGinneses for $21,000 from the Wimborne Farm dispersal in July 2002. The foal she was carrying at the time died in 2003, and Always Asking didn't produce a foal the next year.

The McGinneses adhere to a policy of not shipping foals to Kentucky alongside their dams, so they will only breed barren or maiden mares to Kentucky stallions. Although she had yet to produce anything of note, Always Asking had no foal at her side when she was sent to Malibu Moon.

After breeding Always Asking to Malibu Moon, the McGinneses did a nicking pattern on the resulting foal's pedigree, and it turned up a "D" on a scale where an "A-plus" is the highest.

"We picked a mare we thought would be easy to get in foal," McGinnes said.

Described by McGinnes as a very square and powerful yearling, although not big, Ask the Moon was sold at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale for $45,000 to agent Nick de Meric. The underbidder at that sale was John Davison, whose mother, Rosalee Davison, owns Snow Park, who finished fourth to Ask the Moon in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship.

De Meric consigned Ask the Moon to the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s March 2-year-olds in training sale, where trainer Ned Allard, who originally spotted the filly at the yearling sale, paid $125,000 for her. With her third win in six starts, Ask the Moon now has earnings of $81,200.

The McGinneses sold a colt by Great Notion out of Always Asking at this past fall's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling sale for $22,000. Not bred for 2007, Always Asking is currently in foal to Lion Hearted and is booked in 2008 to first-year stallion Scipion, another son of A.P. Indy who stands at Murmur Farm in Darlington, Md.