01/11/2008 1:00AM

Moon Catcher delivers big dividends

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New names popped up alongside familiar ones among Maryland's leaders of 2007. And there was no catching Moon Catcher, the year's top Maryland-bred money earner.

Trainer Tim Ritchey proved his keen eye when he picked Moon Catcher out of the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale in 2004, paying $49,000 to secure the weanling daughter of Malibu Moon for a pinhooking venture with another partner. Not willing to let her go, Ritchey was the top bidder again when she went through the Keeneland September yearling sale, purchasing the filly for himself and partner Chuck Zacney's CJZ Racing Stable for $75,000.

The partners struck gold.

In her first year of competition, Moon Catcher made 11 starts last year at 3, winning 6 times and earning $663,450. The bulk of her earnings came with her thrilling head victory in the Grade 2, $500,000 Delaware Oaks. She also dominated in front-running fashion both the $175,000 Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup Stakes and $150,000 Maryland Million Oaks.

But the icing on the cake came last week, when the partners sold Moon Catcher as a broodmare/racing prospect at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale for $1.35 million. Moon Catcher's new owner, Marsha Naify, intends to race the filly this year with trainer Christophe Clement.

Bred by Randy Cohen, his father Albert, and trainer Ferris Allen, Moon Catcher is out of the Smarten mare Smartster. The 16th stakes winner bred by Randy Cohen (solely or in partnership), Moon Catcher is the richest runner born at the Cohens' Hickory Plains Farm in Monrovia, Md.

* Silmaril and Smart and Fancy tied among statebreds with four stakes wins apiece.

Stephen Quick and Christopher Feifarek's homebred Silmaril (by Diamond) came excruciatingly close to $1 million in career earnings when she won or placed in 8 of her 10 starts in 2007, all but one in added-money races. Kicking off the year with a victory in the What a Summer Stakes at Laurel Park in January, Silmaril competed through November of her 6-year-old season, to earn $405,820, which boosted her career total to $984,973.

The biggest score for the Chris Grove-trained Silmaril came in Delaware Park's Grade 3 Endine Handicap, in which she rallied from last to win drawing away. She also took the Conniver and Skipat in Maryland.

Smart and Fancy was never worse than third in her eight starts last year, all in stakes company. The Tony Dutrow-trained filly, who traveled to six different tracks during her 4-year-old season, put together a four-race win streak when she took Aqueduct's Break Through and Furlough stakes (both at six furlongs), the Turf Amazon at Philadelphia Park, and Light Hearted at Delaware Park, the latter two at five furlongs on the turf. By amassing $297,513, she more than doubled her career earnings, to $559,193, for owner Park Avenue Racing Stable.

* Named Maryland's leading breeders in 1998, 2005, and 2006, renowned equine veterinarian Tom Bowman and his wife, Chris, had another spectacular year in 2007, when represented by five stakes winners (including those bred in partnerships).

The leading earner of the group was Good Night Shirt, an Eclipse Award finalist for champion steeplechaser. The gelded chestnut son of Concern, owned by Sonny and Ann Via and trained in Maryland by Jack Fisher, earned a steeplechase record $314,163 during his 6-year-old season in 2007, and raced exclusively in Grade 1 steeplechase stakes, winning three.

Also foaled at the Bowmans' Dance Forth Farm in Chestertown, Md., were accomplished sprinters Smart and Fancy and Grand Champion, miler Raise the Bluff, and two-time stakes winning 3-year-old Heart Throbbin'.

* For the fifth year in a row, Not for Love led all Maryland sires by North American earnings, with nearly $5.8 million last year. He also ranked 18th in the nation, was represented by 11 stakes winners, and was Maryland's leading sire of 2-year-olds (with earnings of $626,779). An 18-year-old son of Mr. Prospector-Dance Number, by Northern Dancer, Not for Love has made his stud career at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City.

* In a fruitful season for first-year sires, Maryland Stallion Station's Seeking Daylight, a son of Seeking the Gold from the stellar family of With Approval, Touch Gold, and Izvestia, held off Rock Slide, No Armistice, and Parker's Storm Cat to take title as the top freshman sire. With a rash of winners in the final month of the year, Seeking Daylight had a final tally of seven winners, and progeny earnings of $167,016, besting barnmate Rock Slide by slightly more than $25,000.