03/11/2005 12:00AM

Declan's Moon out of Derby

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Declan's Moon, the reigning divisional champion and the early favorite for the 131st Kentucky Derby, is off the Triple Crown trail after being diagnosed with a knee chip that is not career-threatening but will sideline him through the summer.

Declan's Moon, owned by the Jay Em Ess Stable of Mace and Samantha Siegel, has a "small, non-displaced chip" in his left knee, said trainer Ron Ellis. "The veterinarians are still trying to decide whether or not it's going to require surgery. He's going to get 60 days off, and after that he'll be re-evaluated. Obviously that takes us out of all the big races at least through the summer."

Churchill Downs has scratched Declan's Moon from Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. After Thursday, the first of four days of wagering, $5,948 had been bet on Declan's Moon, who was the narrow second choice at 5-1 behind Afleet Alex, also 5-1. There are no refunds in the future wager.

Declan's Moon, a Maryland-bred gelding by Malibu Moon, is unbeaten in five starts. He won four races last year, earning him the Eclipse Award as top male 2-year-old, then raced to a two-length victory in the Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita in his 3-year-old debut last Saturday.

Ellis and his primary veterinarian, Dr. Herb Warren, said they suspect Declan's Moon suffered the injury during the Santa Catalina. "With all the rain we've had here, they've had to float the track so much, and maybe that has made the track too hard," he said.

Ellis said the Siegels have been particularly hard-hit by the news. Mace Siegel has been a horse owner for some 40 years, and Declan's Moon was his first champion and easily his best chance at winning the Derby.

Ellis still has Don't Get Mad as a Derby prospect. Owned by B. Wayne Hughes, Don't Get Mad runs next in the March 19 San Felipe at Santa Anita.