01/28/2005 12:00AM

Declan's Moon shooting for more

The gelded Declan's Moon (right) beat Giacomo (left) - as well as the BC Juvenile winner Wilko - in the Hollywood Futurity last Dec. 18 to finish a 4-for-4 season and clinch the Eclipse Award as outstanding 2-year-old male.

Samantha Siegel admits that buying Declan's Moon was a curious move. No one bids on a yearling that has been gelded, particularly one not nominated to the Breeders' Cup. Many owners would simply turn to the next page in the sales catalog.

Siegel did not turn the page, and wound up buying a champion. , owned by the Jay Em Ess Stable of Siegel and her father, Mace Siegel, won all four starts as a 2-year-old, and cemented the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old male when he won the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity in December. Talk about a longshot.

"Wow! . . . a gelding who isn't even Breeders-Cup eligible . . . what in the world was I thinking?" Samantha Siegel said Monday night in Beverly Hills, where she, her father, and trainer Ron Ellis were presented a championship trophy for Declan's Moon's perfect season.

A son of Malibu Moon produced by the Norquestor mare Vee Vee Star, Declan's Moon was one of 606 yearlings for sale at the 2003 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale. It was a lot of horses for Siegel to sift through.

"It's like you go down to the paddock for eight races, and you see nothing, and all of the sudden a horse walks by and you say, 'Boy he looks good,' " she said. "It's the look in their eye, the way they stand . . . the way they walk. When I saw Declan's Moon, I loved him."

One problem.

"I looked down at the catalog and saw he was a gelding, and said 'uh-oh,' " Siegel said. Siegel asked why, and the consignor said the breeder gelds everything. Fair enough.

Siegel bought Declan's Moon for $125,000 and he entered training in early 2004 in Laredo, Texas. In spring, Siegel sent him to Ellis in California. It took less than two weeks for Declan's Moon to win over his trainer. Ellis told Siegel, "I love the Malibu Moon, he's got such a nice, long stride . . . he's my Derby horse."

Ellis rarely starts 2-year-olds in summer, but Declan's Moon was an exception. He breezed like clockwork every six or seven days, and entered a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race July 31 at Del Mar. There were no delusions, according to Siegel. "We knew he could run, but none of us had any idea he could go to the lead and win by five lengths from the 1-post."

Propelled by a pronounced speed bias, Declan's Moon romped. Seven weeks later, he won without a bias in his favor, upsetting Roman Ruler in the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity.

Siegel considered supplementing Declan's Moon to the Breeders' Cup, but, she said, "$135,000 is a big check to write for a gelding." Instead, his fall campaign included the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue and Hollywood Futurity. He won both, defeating BC Juvenile winner Wilko and Grade 1 winner Proud Accolade in the Futurity. Four for four.

Jay Em Ess is a play on family names. "Jay" stands for Jan, the late wife of Mace (Em) and mother of Samantha (Ess). The stable name is the only shortcut. Now that the Eclipse is secure, the distances and pressure of the Kentucky Derby trail will build.

"When you have a gelding, the Derby is just another million-dollar race," Mace Siegel said. Don't believe him. Samantha countered, "Everyone in this business wants to win the Derby. If they tell you they don't, they're lying."