03/05/2005 12:00AM

Declan's Moon stays perfect

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Declan's Moon, Victor Espinoza up, scores in his 2005 debut Saturday in the Santa Catalina.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, remained unbeaten in five starts after scoring a sharp two-length victory in his 3-year-old debut in Saturday's $200,000 at Santa Anita.

The race marked Declan's Moon's first prep race on the road to the Kentucky Derby, and first outing since a win in the Hollywood Futurity in December.

Ridden by regular rider Victor Espinoza, Declan's Moon ($3.60) finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.41. Going Wild, a two-time stakes winner earlier at this meeting, finished second, three lengths clear of Spanish Chestnut, the winner of the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes in January. They were followed by the longshots Go Coyote Joe and Juliesugardaddy. Snack did not finish.

Declan's Moon raced near the front throughout and appeared relaxed under Espinoza. Spanish Chestnut set the early pace of 23.51 and 46.89 seconds, but was closely tracked by Going Wild along the rail and Declan's Moon on the outside.

At the end of the backstretch, Spanish Chestnut's lead was reduced to a half-length. The race continued to tighten on the final turn. With Going Wild rallying on the inside and Declan's Moon moving closer on the outside, the three were separated by a neck at the eighth pole.

Quickly, Declan's Moon pulled clear and drew off under urging from Espinoza.

The victory was made all the more impressive considering trainer Ron Ellis insisted before the race that Declan's Moon was not fully fit for his comeback.

Owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel, Declan's Moon has earned $627,300. The race marked his fourth stakes win, including the Del Mar Futurity last September and the Hollywood Prevue Stakes in November.

Ellis has indicated that Declan's Moon will make his next start in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 9.

Saturday's race was marred by an injury to Snack, a three-time stakes winner in the Midwest who was pulled up at the end of the backstretch. The race marked his first start since being privately acquired by a partnership led by Paul Reddam and turned over to trainer Doug O'Neill.

Snack suffered an injury to the fetlock of his right front leg, according to track stewards.