08/17/2006 11:00PM

Declan's Moon reloads for O'Brien

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DEL MAR, Calif. - The only time Declan's Moon lost a race, it was trainer Art Sherman who was standing in the winner's circle, with Desert Boom. Declan's Moon on Sunday at Del Mar promises to be better, stronger, and faster for the Grade 2, $300,000 Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap than he was in his comeback race on July 16 at Hollywood Park, but Sherman will be out to knock him off again, this time with Siren Lure, who has won 5 of his last 6 starts, most recently the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park.

The seven-furlong O'Brien is the sixth race on a 10-race card headed by the Pacific Classic, and while it will take a backseat to the richest race of the season here, it came up a terrific race itself. Siren Lure is in the best form of his career, Declan's Moon was the male 2-year-old champ of 2004, and all Pure as Gold did in his last start was upset the pro-tem leader of the sprint division, Bordonaro, in the Bing Crosby Handicap.

"There are some damn good horses in the race," Ron Ellis, the trainer of Declan's Moon, said Friday morning. "There's no gimmes."

Declan's Moon won all four of his starts at age 2, including the Hollywood Futurity against Giacomo, who subsequently won the Kentucky Derby. After capturing his lone start at age 3, Declan's Moon began a medical odyssey that kept him on the sidelines for 15 months. He was an unlucky loser of his comeback, when given a ride by Victor Espinoza that was both cognizant it was his first start back and might have been a touch overconfident. Declan's Moon turned in a pair of sharp works at Del Mar, then was sent north by Ellis to train at Santa Anita, where he has continued to work strongly, Ellis said.

"I think his last race did what we hoped it would. It appears he'll move forward," Ellis said. "He's where he should be for his second start off a long layoff."

Declan's Moon drew the favorable outside stall in the field of eight, from where he should get an ideal, stalking trip.

The O'Brien purse is enhanced by $100,000 in Breeders' Cup funds. Declan's Moon was not an original nominee to the Breeders' Cup, but this past week owner Samantha Siegel - who races with her father, Mace, as Jay Em Ess Stable - put up $150,000 to make Declan's Moon eligible. Declan's Moon is one of several horses, including Eddie Read Handicap winner Aragorn, whose owners have taken advantage of a policy enacted this year regarding nominating older horses.

For Declan's Moon to prevail, he will have to get past two stakes-class sprinters coming off excellent wins.

Siren Lure gave Sherman his first Grade 1 victory when he captured the Triple Bend, which, like the O'Brien, is at seven furlongs. Siren Lure drew the rail, but he usually falls back early and comes with a late run.

"I hate that post, but with his style it won't make much difference," Sherman said. "Seven-eighths is a good scenario for a come-from-behind sprinter. It looks like there's some legitimate speed up front. He's been training well down here. He's coming into the race great."

Pure as Gold won the Crosby in his first start since being claimed for $100,000. He set or forced a hot pace that day going six furlongs and just lasted. His trainer, Jack Carava, initially said he would pass the O'Brien, but Pure as Gold wouldn't let him.

"He trained good, and breezed so great. He's coming out of his skin right now," Carava said.

The field

Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap
Purse: $300,000; 7 furlongs; Grade 2

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1Siren LureA. Solis1225-2
2AreyoutalkintomeM. Garcia11412-1
3Trickey TrevorC. Nakatani11715-1
4Yes He's a PistolD. Cohen11415-1
5SpellbinderN. Arroyo Jr.11510-1
6Pure as GoldJ. Court1169-2
7Battle WonG. Gomez1145-1
8Declan's MoonV. Espinoza1199-5

* Odds by Michael Hammersly
* Blinkers on: Yes He's a Pistol