11/18/2004 12:00AM

Prevue again a national story

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Most of the time, the Hollywood Prevue is nothing more than a nice little autumn race at seven furlongs that sometimes lives up to its billing. In the wake of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile - not to mention the whirl of major 2-year-old races leading up to the Cup - it is unreasonable to expect otherwise.

King Glorious was already a stakes winner on the rise when he won the Prevue in 1988. Otherwise, the Prevue has served to introduce such up-and-comers as Olympio, Afternoon Deelites, Cobra King, Stuka, Commitisize, Grey Memo, and last year's winner, Lion Heart. All of them went on to win major stakes at 3 or even 4.

This year, however, Saturday's renewal of the Prevue comes fully equipped with national ramifications. In the wake of Wilko's flabbergasting win in the BC Juvenile over Afleet Alex, Proud Accolade, and Roman Ruler, a case is being made for a late-inning division championship if Del Mar Futurity winner Declan's Moon can bag both the Prevue and the subsequent Hollywood Futurity.

Of course, this is like someone saying as soon as my daughter earns her law degree and gets elected to Congress, she can run for President. It's not quite as simple as that.

Roman Ruler was all but conceded the Del Mar Futurity in September, scaring away all but three rivals and going off at a nickel on the dollar. Then along came Declan's Moon, with one start and one win to his name, shocking Roman Ruler with a performance that still stands as the best effort by an American 2-year-old this year.

This time around, it is Declan's Moon who will be starting with a bright red target painted on his backside. As he is a fresh horse who is training well and running at a distance he has already mastered, expectations will be predictably high. Ron Ellis trains Declan's Moon for the father-daughter ownership team of Mace and Samantha Siegel, and they skipped the Breeders' Cup to concentrate on a late-season campaign that would lead smoothly into a 3-year-old campaign designed with the classics in mind. The Prevue, coming two months after the Del Mar Futurity, is the first step along the way.

"I try to draw the line to do just enough with the horse to beat his competition at this time, and leave a little something in the tank for later on," Ellis said. "Hopefully, I've done enough with him."

Typical trainer, spreading cold water and caution at every turn. Ellis is justified, though, when it comes to curbing his enthusiasm for a race like the Prevue. He loves his horse, but questions always loom when it comes to evaluating competition among emerging juveniles.

"I think the 2-year-olds can change from race to race," Ellis said. "They can jump up 10 points each time" on the Beyer Speed Figure scale.

Just as the backers of Roman Ruler should have paid more attention to Declan's Moon at Del Mar, Ellis has a wary eye cocked toward Seize the Day, a cruising winner of his only start, going six furlongs on Oct. 11 at Santa Anita.

"Who the heck knows what kind of horse he is?" Ellis said. "Wins by 11 first time out and runs fast - what more do you want him to do? It's like going into the Del Mar Futurity, when Roman Ruler was supposed to win. How come you couldn't give my horse a chance? He hadn't done anything wrong."

Seize the Day is a son of Montbrook owned by Robert Shepard and trained by Kristin Mulhall. If nothing else, there is an historical echo, since the last time a Mulhall had an impact on the Prevue Stakes was the last time the race had national implications.

The 1982 running of the Prevue lured Copelan, the beast of the East, winner of the Sanford, the Hopeful, the Belmont Futurity, and the Champagne. A hiccup in the Young America under the lights at The Meadowlands sent Copelan west in an attempt to clinch the title by knocking off local standout Roving Boy in the Hollywood Futurity. The Prevue figured to be nothing more than batting practice.

Instead, Copelan had to earn his money. Richard Mulhall, Kristin's father, came within 1 1/2 lengths of beating the odds-on invader with the Key to the Mint colt R. Awacs, owned by a young Prince Ahmed Salman and named for the cutting-edge AWACS spy planes being sold by the United States to Saudi Arabia. R. Awacs was nearly 22-1, while Kristin Mulhall was just shy of four months old.

"Boy, that was a long time ago," Richard Mulhall said. "I remember the race, but not that well, other than Eddie Delahoussaye rode our colt and almost got the money."

Fair warning then, to those who have already put Declan's Moon in the winner's circle. Ron Ellis is not among them.

"He's automatic, right?" said Ron Ellis, his voice laced with sarcasm. "Yeah, I was automatic here the other day at 2-5. Then the horse stumbled out of the gate and finished fourth. That's why I don't take anything for granted."