01/18/2007 12:00AM

Declan's Moon tries to regain his confidence


ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Ron Ellis has been down this road before.

Talented horse, disappointing performances . . . road trip!

Ellis is trying the equivalent of sending 2004 Juvenile champion Declan's Moon back down to the minors when he runs him Saturday in an allowance race at Golden Gate Fields.

Now 5, Declan's Moon won all four of his starts as a 2-year-old en route to the Eclipse Award. He won his first start at 3, capturing the Grade 2 Santa Catalina, before dropping off the Kentucky Derby trail to have a chip removed from his knee. He hasn't won in four starts since, the latest a seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 San Pasqual at Santa Anita two weeks ago.

"I'm a big believer in confidence, whether for horses or human athletes," Ellis said. "Sometimes you send a pitcher back to Double-A, and he gets his confidence back and comes back to win in the majors.

"I'm disappointed I had to go to this measure, but I don't know any other way to get him turned around."

Ellis used a similar strategy 11 months ago, sending Buzzards Bay north to run in the Grade 3 All American here. He won the race and became a millionaire in his next start when he won the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. Buzzards Bay has just resumed training for Ellis following a fourth-place finish in last June's Stephen Foster.

Jose Valdivia Jr., who rode Buzzards Bay for the first time in the All American, will ride Declan's Moon for the first time in Saturday's race.

In another change, Ellis will add blinkers to Declan's Moon, explaining, "We're just trying to shake him up a little bit. He's always been a horse that looks around a lot."

Saturday's race won't be a walkover, but Ellis doesn't want one.

"I don't think it would do him any good if he just were in front by five and cruised around the track," Ellis said.

He has five rivals in the race, including the coupled entry of Dr. Einstein and Passive Income.

Dr. Einstein, a runner-up to McCann's Mojave in his past two starts, comes off a second in the opening-day Union Square here. His entrymate, Passive Income, is also a stakes winner, as are My Creed and Raise the Bluff. Stakes-placed Real Temptation rounds out the field.