07/13/2007 11:00PM

Moon Catcher wires Delaware Oaks


Moon Catcher's first stakes try was a flop, her second a success, and on Saturday, in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks, she hit pay dirt, leading all the way under Carlos Marquez Jr. to win the $505,600 race.

Moon Catcher ($20.60) had beaten the filly Winning Point by two lengths in the June 16 Susan's Girl, the local Oaks prep, but Saturday the margin was just a head, with Winning Point finishing fast once she came off the fence in mid-stretch. It was another 6 3/4 lengths back to 6-5 favorite Cotton Blossom, who tracked the speed but had no spark in the stretch run.

Moon Catcher is trained by Tim Ritchey, who co-owns the filly with the CJZ Racing Stable, and Ritchey only got her started over the winter at Oaklawn Park. Second in her career debut, Moon Catcher developed steadily if unspectacularly through the spring, improving with experience and as Ritchey stretched her out in distance.

Moon Catcher found all sorts of trouble and never really had a chance to run when she finished fourth of eight in the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico, her stakes debut. However, Ritchey added blinkers to Moon Catcher's equipment, and that has taken her to a higher level.

She won the Susan's Girl leading almost all the way, and she made the front Saturday, battling Canadian invader Bear Now through an opening quarter-mile in 23.56 seconds and a half-mile in 47.63. Moon Catcher put Bear Now away past the three-sixteenths pole, and Cotton Blossom was running in place, but Ramon Dominguez guided Winning Point off the fence to make a race of it. However, Moon Catcher was slightly better, getting the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.39 - just good enough for her first graded stakes victory.