02/06/2008 1:00AM

Declan's Moon tests throat surgery


ARCADIA, Calif. - After undergoing throat surgery last year, Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, is ready for a comeback in an optional claimer at Santa Anita on Friday.

But it is unclear whether Santa Anita's racetrack will be ready for Friday's nine-race program.

Wednesday, maintenance crews continued to work on refinishing the synthetic main track in an effort to solve a months-long drainage problem. As of midday, track officials had not announced whether racing would go ahead Friday or resume Saturday.

Declan's Moon, 6, has not started since finishing fifth in the Pirate's Bounty Handicap at Del Mar in September. After that race, he was diagnosed with a breathing problem that trainer Ron Ellis and owners Mace and Samantha Siegel hope has been remedied.

Ellis said he will not know whether the procedure was successful until Declan's Moon experiences the stress of a race.

"It's kind of a guess whether it's worked or not," Ellis said. "It took the pressure of a race to see that he had the problem. He was definitely running like it was bothering him. I'm hopeful.

"If he can breathe, he'll be ready. He's working very good, but he did before."

Declan's Moon has won 6 of 15 starts and $703,687. Last July at Hollywood Park, the gelding scored a convincing three-length win in a six-furlong optional claimer, his first victory since the Grade 2 Santa Catalina Stakes in March 2005.

At Del Mar last summer, Declan's Moon finished sixth in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap on July 29 before the loss in the Pirate's Bounty.

For his comeback, Declan's Moon has worked quickly, including six furlongs in 1:11.80 at Hollywood Park last Friday, the fastest of 28 recorded works at the distance.

"He worked great before the throat surgery, too," Ellis said.

Declan's Moon has five rivals in Friday's race, which is run at 6 1/2 furlongs. Les Grands Trois seeks to end a two-race losing streak, which includes a fifth in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes as the 3-1 favorite here Dec. 26.

Doppio is the only horse in the field coming off a win. A 6-year-old gelding trained by Carla Gaines, Doppio won a $62,500 claimer at seven furlongs here Dec. 30, his sixth win in 13 starts.