12/23/2004 12:00AM

Declan's Moon helps state shine


Declan's Moon may be finding fame and fortune out in California, but the dark bay son of Malibu Moon is totally a Maryland product - Maryland bred, sired, raised, and sold.

Declan's Moon's success reverberates across the country, and many Marylanders were along for the ride when he crossed the finish line first in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity last week. In addition to his owners, Jay Em Ess Stable's Samantha Siegel and Mace Siegel, and trainer, Ron Ellis, Christmas came early for many of Declan's Moon's former connections.

"I hope the further this horse goes, that Maryland gets behind him, like New York did for Funny Cide and Pennsylvania did for Smarty Jones," said Declan's Moon's breeder, Brice Ridgely. "This could really get exciting."

Ridgely, who, with his wife Mary Anne, owns and operates Spring Meadow Farm in Cooksville, Md., joined a number of friends at the Cracked Claw off-track betting center near Frederick, Md., to watch the Futurity. Ridgely has been in the breeding business for about 30 years, but it was the purchase of two horses eight years ago that has taken him on his most exciting ride.

In one of the greatest strokes of good fortune for a breeder in recent memory, Ridgely bought the 11-year-old broodmare Fabulous Vee and her weanling filly by Norquestor (who stood at Murmur Farm in Darlington, Md.) for a total of $3,500 after seeing them listed in a classified ad in the Baltimore Sun in 1996. The Norquestor filly, named Vee Vee Star, would go on to finish third in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan and Caesar's Wish Stakes at 3, earn $60,895, and eventually produce Declan's Moon.

In the fall of 2003, Ridgely sold Declan's Moon (named for Ridgely's grandson) at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale for $125,000; he got $60,000 for Fabulous Vee's Not for Love filly at the same sale. Ridgely still owns Fabulous Vee, as well as her 2004 Allen's Prospect filly; a yearling Diamond filly Ridgely gladly bought back out of this year's Fasig-Tipton Eastern fall sale when she didn't reach her $50,000 reserve; and a 3-year-old Not for Love filly named Mary Anne's Love, a recent maiden winner. As for Vee Vee Star, Ridgely has been fielding a number of calls lately from potential buyers who have offers well into six figures, but Ridgely quickly points out that she is not for sale.

Stallion owners are also eagerly seeking out Vee Vee Star, who produced a Partner's Hero colt in April, and is not currently in foal. But Ridgely's plans are firm to repeat the breeding that produced Declan's Moon - Vee Vee Star will be bred back to Malibu Moon, who now stand's at Castleton Lyons in Lexington, Ky.

Josh Pons, of Country Life Farm, is also seeing firsthand the effects of Declan's Moon. The Pons family retained a one-quarter interest in Malibu Moon, who launched his career at Country Life Farm in Bel Air, Md., when the stallion moved to Kentucky for 2004. The 7-year-old is booked full for next year, at a fee of $17,500, five times what he stood for in Maryland, and now seasons are being traded for nearly double his current fee.

Riding on Malibu Moon's success is his 4-year-old half-brother, Parker's Storm Cat (by Storm Cat), who stood his first season at Country Life Farm in 2004 for $3,000 and was bred to 70 mares. Pons notes that in the past week, there has been a flurry of calls to book mares to him.

"Sires tend to run in families," said Pons. "And Parker is comparable to Malibu Moon - he's very handsome, correct, and out of the same great mare [Group 1 winner Macoumba, by Mr. Prospector]."

Thanks to Declan's Moon last weekend, a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling sales graduate came home first in the Hollywood Futurity for the second year in a row. Lion Heart won the race in 2003 Declan's Moon's win for the Siegels certainly pleases Fasig-Tipton Midlantic's executive vice-president Mason Grasty. "While a Grade 1 stakes is always rewarding and helps build a sale's reputation, it is especially gratifying when one of our longtime supporters owns the horse," Grasty said. "The Siegels have been one of the sale's major buyers for more than a decade."

One of the biggest rivals standing in Declan's Moon's way for an Eclipse Award is Afleet Alex, who sold for $75,000 at last spring's Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale.

Longtime sales agent Bill Reightler, a friend and adviser to Ridgely for a number of years, sold Declan's Moon through his consignment. Reightler is the first to remind Ridgely how special Declan's Moon is.

"I said to him, 'Do you realize how many people have tried to accomplish what you have, how much money can be spent and not get those results?' " Reightler said. "It really proves that it can happen to the small breeder. It's great."