03/04/2005 12:00AM

Clear-cut choices for state champs

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There were no surprises when the 2004 Maryland-bred champions were announced last Monday. The list included an Eclipse Award winner, the state's leading earner, the state's stakes leader by wins, undefeated 2-year-olds, and graded stakes winners.

Declan's Moon and Hear Us Roar ended their 2-year-old campaigns undefeated and were unanimous selections for Maryland championship honors. Winning an Eclipse Award gave Declan's Moon the edge over Maryland's leading earner, Our New Recruit, for state horse of the year honors as well.

There is little left to say about Declan's Moon's championship season. Undefeated while racing exclusively in California, this son of former Maryland sire Malibu Moon secured his awards with a solid score in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity in December over Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Wilko. Declan's Moon also counted graded stakes victories in the Del Mar Futurity and Hollywood Prevue Stakes, earning $507,300. Bred by Marylander Brice Ridgely and sold at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale in 2003, Declan's Moon (named for Brice Ridgely's grandson) was purchased for $125,000 by longtime Midlantic sales supporters Samantha Siegel and her father, Mace. Competing in the name of Jay Em Ess Stable, Declan's Moon is trained by Ron Ellis.

Sent out by Pimlico-based trainer Francis Campitelli, the 2-year-old filly Hear Us Roar won all her starts at Pimlico. A daughter of leading Maryland freshman sire Lion Hearted, Hear Us Roar made an impressive debut in August, winning by five lengths, then stepped up to stakes company for the Maryland Million Lassie in October. Racing well off the pace, she roared home to victory, then reappeared the following month in the historic Selima Stakes. Applying different tactics, Hear Us Roar spurted to the lead and led the entire 1 1/16 miles to win by a head.

Hear Us Roar is a homebred for Rosalee and Richard Davison, whose roots in Maryland racing run deep. Rosalee Davison, daughter of former Pimlico track owner Ben Cohen, purchased the couple's first broodmare at the urging of her father. That mare, Gracefully, produced 1981 Eclipse Award-winning sprinter Guilty Conscience for the Davisons, and is the great-granddam of Hear Us Roar.

Our New Recruit was named Maryland-bred champion in two categories for 2004 - older male and sprinter. A son of Alphabet Soup, Our New Recruit won 2 of 5 starts last year at 5, but scored the biggest payday of any statebred runner when he won the Group 1, $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen last March over a field of world-class sprinters. The winner's share of the purse made up the majority of his $1,265,800 in earnings for the year. He ranks ninth on the list of all-time Maryland-bred money earners (Cigar remains at the top with a North American record of $9,999,815).

A massively built chestnut, Our New Recruit, bred by Thomas Graul, is out of the Lord Avie mare Delta Danielle. He was sold by Graul as a weanling for $40,000 at the Keeneland November sale.

Both of te Maryland-bred 3-year-old champions, as well as the champion older female, are offspring of the state's leading sire, Not for Love.

Love of Money was spectacular in winning the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby by nearly nine lengths over Pollard's Vision. Love of Money, out of Smarten's daughter Mescalina, was bred by Dr. Tom Bowman and his wife, Chris; Tom Sutton and his wife, Carol; and Milton Higgins. Love of Money was purchased by the Siegels at the 2002 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling sale for $70,000.

Three-year-old filly He Loves Me campaigned for her breeders, Binnie and Eddie Houghton's Buckingham Farm, and was the state's most prolific stakes winner in 2004 - winning five stakes from 10 starts. In addition to four stakes victories in Maryland, she scored in Prairie Meadows's Grade 3 Iowa Oaks and finished third in the Grade 1 Gazelle at Belmont Park. Out of the Houghton's graded-stakes-winning mare Palliser Bay, He Loves Me was sold privately in February and remains in training with new owner Peter Karches and trainer Christophe Clement.

Angela's Love, bred by Dr. George Harmening, Kimberly Harmening, and William Campbell, earned her championship as older mare by recording three wins, including the Grade 3 Gardenia Handicap, while competing primarily in the Midwest for owners Bill and Vicki Poston.

Also named champions were turf horse Slew Valley, a two-time graded stakes winner in Canada for owner-breeder James Hindman's Rich Meadow Farm, and steeplechaser Preemptive Strike, a finalist for the Eclipse Award in that category, bred by Klo Carroll and owned by Polaris Stables.

All the champions will be honored at the Maryland Horse Breeders Association's awards dinner on April 21 at the Walters Art Musuem in Baltimore. The dinner coincides with a special showing of the art exhibit "Stubbs and the Horse." Tickets are limited and may be obtained by contacting the MHBA office at (410) 252-2100 by April 7.