12/13/2004 1:00AM

Futurity winner will have leg up on Eclipse chase

Email
Horsephotos
Declan's Moon will be the likely favorite against Wilko and Proud Accolade in the Hollywood Futurity.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With the three top contenders for Saturday's Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity completing their final serious workouts on Sunday and Monday mornings at Hollywood Park, interest began to ramp up for a race that figures to decide the 2-year-old championship.

Wilko, the upset winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, worked Monday, one day after both Declan's Moon, the undefeated Del Mar Futurity winner, and Proud Accolade, the Champagne Stakes winner, had their final drills. All appeared to come out of their works in good order, setting up a highly anticipated battle. A win by any of those three should bring them the Eclipse Award.

"There's a lot of publicity, that's for sure," said Craig Dollase, who took over as trainer of Wilko following the Breeders' Cup. "It's exciting to be part of it."

Wilko worked an easy half-mile Monday morning in 48.80 seconds with his regular exercise rider, Sal Iniguez.

Dollase described it as "just a little maintenance work." Corey Nakatani has the mount Saturday.

Declan's Moon, the likely favorite in the Hollywood Futurity, sizzled through a five-furlong work in 58.60 seconds Sunday morning. It was the fastest of 36 works at the distance and one of only five that were faster than one minute.

Declan's Moon's regular rider, Victor Espinoza, worked Declan's Moon, just as he did in his final work before last month's Hollywood Prevue.

"Victor said he worked better than he did going into his last race," said Ron Ellis, who trains Declan's Moon. "I didn't think he could work any better than he did that time," Ellis added, joking, "I don't know what to think of what Victor says now, not after Saturday."

Ellis was referring to Espinoza's hyperbolic praise of Fusaichi Samurai, whom Espinoza said "could be the best horse ever" after his debut win Saturday.

Ellis said Declan's Moon "just had his ears pricked" during the work.

"We're training him with the same pattern we did before the Del Mar Futurity and the Hollywood Prevue - five-eighths five or six days before the race," Ellis said. "It seems to be working well."

Proud Accolade went so easily in his workout Sunday - five furlongs in 1:01.40 - that clockers designated it as a breeze, a rare occurrence in California. Only seven of the 104 horses who worked at Hollywood on Sunday received a breezing designation. Former jockey Corey Black worked Proud Accolade. John Velazquez has the mount Saturday.

"It was a very nice move. He went real well, and he had a good gallop out," said Michael "Whitey" McCarthy, the assistant trainer to Todd Pletcher who is overseeing Proud Accolade's preparation.

Proud Accolade worked in blinkers and will wear them in the race Saturday. He came out of the work so well that he went back to the track to jog Monday morning, McCarthy said.

Other likely starters in the Futurity include Bushwacker, General Jumbo, and Southern Africa, who worked five furlongs in 59 seconds Monday morning at Santa Anita. Possible runners are Giacomo and Lucky Bid, who worked five furlongs in 1:04.20 on Monday at Santa Anita.