11/22/2004 12:00AM

Declan's Moon's best is yet to come

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Benoit & Associates
Declan's Moon impressively wins the Prevue Stakes on Saturday, even though trainer Ron Ellis said he did not have the colt at 100 percent.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - One of the remarkable aspects of Declan's Moon's win in the Grade 3 Prevue Stakes at Hollywood Park on Saturday is that trainer Ron Ellis insists the colt was far from his best.

Making his first start since winning the Del Mar Futurity in September, Declan's Moon scored a two-length win over Bushwacker, running the seven furlongs in 1:21.74. Jockey Victor Espinoza never used his whip.

Ellis considered the Prevue an ideal trial for Declan's Moon's next start, the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 18, which will be his first start at 1 1/16 miles.

"I've been pretty easy on him. I had him about 90 to 95 percent," Ellis said. "He needed a race that was good enough to win.

"It's gone according to plan, and that doesn't happen often in this game. I couldn't be more excited with the way he ran. I think he's a special horse."

Declan's Moon is undefeated in three starts, including a win over Roman Ruler in the Del Mar Futurity. Roman Ruler was favored in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but finished fifth, well behind upset winner Wilko.

Wilko will make his next start in the Hollywood Futurity. Like Declan's Moon, Wilko is a candidate for the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding 2-year-old male. A win in the Hollywood Futurity might clinch the title for either colt.

"I think the next race is the big race," Ellis said. "If we win the Hollywood Futurity and remain undefeated for the year, I think there will be no doubt about the Eclipse Award."

Fast and Furious playing catch-up

The $500,000 Hollywood Derby on Sunday might arrive too soon for Fast and Furious.

An autumn-long battle with a minor injury to his left foot has kept Fast and Furious on the sidelines since he finished fifth in the Del Mar Derby in his United States debut on Sept. 6.

In recent weeks, trainer Ron McAnally has been scrambling to get Fast and Furious ready for the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, which is run over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

"He's had plenty of long gallops," McAnally said. "The only question

I have is whether he will be fit enough."

There has been little margin of error for McAnally in his preparation of Fast and Furious, who will face an excellent field in the derby. The top candidates include Greek Sun, the winner of the Oak Tree Derby; Blackdoun, the winner of the Del Mar Derby; Imperialism, who was third in the Kentucky Derby; and Timo, a shipper from New York who won stakes earlier this year at Keeneland and Delaware Park.

Other probable starters are Fight Club, Good Reward, Hendrix, Joursanvault, Laura's Lucky Boy, On the Acorn, Terroplane, and Whilly.

Fast and Furious was purchased privately by Arnold Zetcher during the summer. Earlier this year in France, Fast and Furious won a minor stakes over 1 1/2 miles.

In the Del Mar Derby, Fast and Furious was at the back of the field until the final turn and rallied for fifth behind Blackdoun. The margin at the finish between the two colts was only 1 3/4 lengths.

After the race, the injury to Fast and Furious's left front foot was detected. Further investigation revealed the presence of dead tissue in the foot, which had to be removed. More than an inch of foot has grown back, McAnally said, but the setback kept Fast and Furious from starting in the Oak Tree Derby last month.

McAnally said the foot has recovered sufficiently, but the question remains whether Fast and Furious is ready for a top-class stakes.

"I think it will be a good distance, provided he's tight enough," he said.

Special Ring vs. Nothing to Lose

The derby is one of three Grade 1 races in the six-race Autumn Turf Festival, which runs from Friday through Sunday. The other Grade 1 races are the $400,000 Citation Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on Saturday and the $500,000 Matriarch for fillies and mares over a mile on Sunday.

The Citation is led by Special Ring, the winner of the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar in July, and Nothing to Lose, the winner of the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland in October. They will share starting high weight of 120 pounds. They finished ninth and 11th in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park last month.

Other probable starters are Leroidesanimaux at 117 pounds, Buckland Manor and Tsigane at 116, Gondolieri and Mingun at 115, A to the Z and Fairly Ransom at 114, Three Valleys at 113, and Mananan McLir at 112.

The Matriarch field is led by Musical Chimes, the winner of the John Mabee Handicap and Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile this year. She finished a troubled sixth against males in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Trained by Neil Drysdale, Musical Chimes worked seven furlongs in 1:30.80 on Sunday. Kent Desormeaux has the mount.

Other probable starters include Denebola, Etoile Montante, Hoh Buzzard, Intercontinental, Island Fashion, Ocean Drive, Quero Quero, and Ticker Tape.

Friday's program features the $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express over 5 1/2 furlongs and the $100,000 Miesque Stakes for 2-year-old fillies over a mile.

The Turf Express field is expected to include Cajun Beat, the winner of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint. He will face Battle Won, De Valmont, Geronimo, Hombre Rapido, and Only the Best.

The Miesque hopefuls include Conveyor's Angel, Kenza, La Maitresse, Louvain, Mac Rhapsody, Royal Copenhagen, and Witten. Conveyor's Angel won the Hidden Light Stakes at Santa Anita Oct. 27.

Saturday's program also includes the $100,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds over a mile. The candidates include Chattahoochee War, Forzeen, Lucky Bid, Moth Ball, Veiled Speed, and Vitruvian.

Moscow Burning targets Turf Cup

Moscow Burning, who finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, will make her next start against males in the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 4, trainer Jim Cassidy said.

A winner of two stakes earlier this year, Moscow Burning was being considered for Sunday's $3.9 million Japan Cup against males until trainer Jim Cassidy looked into the logistics of the trip earlier this month.

"I was this close to going to Japan," he said, holding his index finger and thumb an inch apart. "They want you there too early. I don't care if it is for $4 million."

Cassidy said that Moscow Burning would have needed to be shipped to Japan last week.

The Grade 1 Turf Cup is run over 1 1/2 miles and is expected to draw Better Talk Now, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.

Almeida okay after spill

Jockey G.F. Almeida was hospitalized briefly on Sunday after being thrown from Sparkling Ava when the 5-year-old mare broke down in early stretch of the sixth race.

Almeida was taken to Centinela Hospital complaining of lower back pains. Precautionary X-rays were negative.

Monday, Almeida said "I'm just a little sore" and that he would seek doctor's clearance on Tuesday to resume riding. He is not booked to ride on Wednesday.

Sparkling Ava was euthanized after suffering a fractured left foreleg. She won 4 of 23 starts and earned $158,029

Another pick four

Beginning Dec. 1, Hollywood Park is adding a second pick four to an already crowded betting menu.

A $1 pick four will be held on the first four races daily. The late pick four will remain on the final four races each day.

The pool on the late pick four is guaranteed to reach $200,000 daily and $400,000 on Saturdays. There will not be a guarantee to the early pick four.