05/04/2006 11:00PM

Declan's Moon's breeder has another star


Not so many moons ago, Marylander Brice Ridgely rose from obscurity in the Thoroughbred world to be hailed as the breeder of 2004 Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old Declan's Moon, a son of Malibu Moon.

Now Ridgely is approaching cloud nine as the co-owner of another offspring of Malibu Moon - the 3-year-old gelding Pagan Moon, a West Virginia-bred who is aiming for the Grade 3, $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes on the Preakness Day undercard.

Pagan Moon, who won Pimlico's April 22 Maryland Stallion Station Stakes in his most recent start, belongs to the three-way equal partnership of Ridgely, Howard County businessman Donald Reuwer, and bloodstock agent Bill Reightler.

It was Reightler who advised Ridgely on the upbringing of Declan's Moon, whom Ridgely sold for $125,000, with Reightler as agent, at the 2003 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale. Reightler also gets a large portion of the credit for Pagan Moon, having purchased him privately from breeder Nancy Camp late in his yearling season.

Reightler was alerted to Camp's yearling by Josh Pons, who with other members of his family operates Country Life Farm in Bel Air, Md., where Malibu Moon stood until the early success of his offspring landed him in Kentucky. Pagan Moon is a member of Malibu Moon's third crop. The horse was moved to Castleton Lyons - with Country Life retaining a major interest in him - for the 2004 breeding season after siring California juvenile graded winner Perfect Moon in his first crop, which came to the races in 2003.

Camp, along with her husband, Gene, a retired oral surgeon, has for nine years maintained a small Thoroughbred breeding operation at their 82-acre Camp Creek Farm near Frederick, Md.

Camp acquired Pagan Moon's dam, Pagan Love (by Pentelicus), through the claim box at Charles Town in 2001 - for $5,000. The mare was 4 at the time.

"She had a bad chip in a knee," Nancy Camp recalled recently. "We raced her a few more times and then decided to make her a mommy."

Pagan Love, whose dam, Grecian Key, (Greek Answer-Key to Pleasure, by What a Pleasure) produced a number of durable if less than sensational runners, retired with a record of 41 starts, 4 wins, 10 seconds, and 3 thirds, and earnings of $57,820.

As for the mating with the young stallion Malibu Moon, Camp said, "I inquired about breeding another of my mares to Carnivalay, and I asked Josh if he had a horse who might nick well with Pagan Love. He said 'Yes I do.'"

Pagan Love produced Pagan Moon as her first foal, and the second race horse bred by Camp. Now Camp's only broodmare, Pagan Love, has a 2-year-old colt by Valiant Nature - Valiant Love, who is in training at the Middleburg Training Center.

Camp and her husband intend to race him themselves. Not bred for 2005 due to a late foaling, Pagan Love has a colt by the young Country Life Farm stallion Parker's Storm Cat at her side and is in foal for 2007 to Civilisation, who stands at Rene Moore's Naylee Farm in Summit Point, W.Va.

Camp routinely sends her mares to Naylee for foaling, which explains why Pagan Moon is a West Virginia-bred.

When Reightler first saw Pagan Moon, he recognized him, he said, as "a young horse with potential. He was straight, well-balanced, and sound looking. His pedigree didn't have a lot of black type, but Pentelicus has been a good broodmare sire."

After a stay at Ridgely's Spring Meadow Farm in Cooksville, Md., Pagan Love was broken at Country Life Farm. He then went to Reuwer's Pleasant Prospect Farm in Brookeville, Md., where he was under the care of trainer Dale Proctor and rider Jennifer Ellis. Laurel Park-based trainer Jann Anderson has had him since this past October.

"He was always difficult to train," said Reightler. "At Pleasant Prospect, they got him on an even keel, and Jann has brought him along very patiently."

Never off the board in his four starts, the first three of which were at Laurel Park, Pagan Moon won his debut, a maiden special weight on Feb. 24. He came back to finish third in allowance company on March 19, and led up to the Maryland Stallion Station Stakes with a 4 3/4-length allowance score on April 5.

In the six-furlong Maryland Stallion Station Stakes, one of the featured events in Pimlico's Spring Festival of Racing, Pagan Moon came from just off the pace and finished strongly to win by 1 1/2 lengths over a sloppy track. The win boosted his earnings to $71,360.

Pagan Moon is the first stakes winner that any of his owners have campaigned on the racetrack. Ditto for his trainer and his breeder.