09/09/2004 11:00PM

Siegels enjoy a wonderful week


POMONA, Calif. - The "Jay" is for Jan. The "Em" stands for Mace. And the "Ess" is Samantha, but everybody calls her Sam. Oh, and just in case no one noticed, last week the North American racing game belonged to the stable called Jay Em Ess, lock, stock, and two smoking barrels.

On Labor Day, their uncharted 3-year-old colt Love of Money left a solid field littered all over the Philadelphia Park stretch with his 8 1/2-length victory in the $750,000 Pennsylvania Derby. Smarty who?

Then, at the climax of Wednesday's final card at Del Mar, Declan's Moon proved the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity was more than just a one-horse race with his stubborn score over heavily favored Roman Ruler at the end of a blistering seven furlongs.

Mace and Sam, father and daughter, were at Del Mar for the festivities, while family matriarch Jan was there in spirit. She died on April 4, 2002, barely two months after Declan's Moon hit the ground in Maryland, courtesy of the hot young stallion Malibu Moon and the Norquestor mare Vee Vee Star.

Love of Money and Declan's Moon, with six starts and five wins between them, get to be called overnight sensations. The Siegels, on the other hand, have been doing this kind of thing for a quarter of a century.

In fact, winning the Del Mar Futurity was a fitting way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first major victory for Jan and Mace Siegel. Ardiente, trained by Eddie Gregson, put the Siegels on the racing map in the summer of 1979 with his victory in the Del Mar Handicap. Mace recalls that they partied as if it would never happen again.

"Jan and I went back to the hotel and drank and celebrated as much as we could," recalled the 79-year-old Siegel, a native of Jersey City, N.J. "Then we went to bed, woke up at 4 o'clock in the morning still excited, then called the guys downstairs who parked the cars. We told them to steal a couple of bottles of champagne and come on up. That's how euphoric it was."

As it turned out, the party was far from finished. In the mid-1980's, the Siegels began to invest seriously in yearlings, stocking their California-based stable with precocious young athletes who produced stakes victories by the bushel under the direction of trainer Brian Mayberry. At one point, the Siegels won the Landaluce Stakes for 2-year-old fillies four times in a five-year span.

Eventually, their trophy case overflowed with baubles from such coveted races for young runners as the Hollywood Juvenile Championship, the Spinaway, the Sorority, the Ashland, and the Santa Anita Oaks. When they became older, the Siegel horses accounted for the Delaware Handicap, the A Gleam, the Triple Bend, the Milady, the Santa Monica Handicap, the John A. Morris, and the Bel Air.

Once in a while, they even made history. At the 1989 Breeders' Cup, in front of their lifelong Miami friends at Gulfstream Park, the Siegels swept all three $100,000 races on the Breeders' Cup undercard, starting the day with an unprecedented bang.

In early 1990 at Santa Anita, all eyes were on the retiring Bill Shoemaker in a race christened The Legend's Last Ride. But it was the Siegels' Exemplary Leader who stole the show, while "The Legend" finished fourth on another horse.

The Pennsylvania-California double last week marked a resounding end to a relatively quiet stretch in the Siegel racing fortunes. Mace Siegel, who founded the shopping mall development company Macerich in 1965 (now rated third largest in the nation), maintains a mordant sensibility about the game that keeps him sane in slow times.

"It's been a tough couple of years," Siegel said from his home in Beverly Hills. "Sometimes you do everything right, and nothing works out.

"You have to figure that whatever money you put in is gone," Siegel went on. "Then you have to pay more to keep it up. But the highs are very high. And you don't have enough of them to get bored with it. A week like this? There's nothing like it. You begin to feel like a masochist, then all of a sudden something good happens. And you never expect it."

In relative terms, the Siegels did not put up that much money for their latest stars. Declan's Moon, a gelding, went for $125,000, while Love of Money cost $70,000. Both were purchased as yearlings from Maryland sales.

"I give a lot of credit to Sam," said Mace. "She goes to the sales, manages the stable, and gets along very well with our trainers."

The talent pool currently includes Richard Dutrow Jr., who trains Love of Money and the New York division, and Ron Ellis, who started with the Siegel family nearly 20 years ago and now cares for Declan's Moon. The Siegels have their Midwestern runners with Paul McGee and have recently sent a batch of 2-year-olds to California veteran Bruce Headley.

"Dutrow has a real feel for the horses," said Siegel, still aglow from the Pennsylvania Derby. "I think he's going to be in a class with the very best. And I loved what he said after the race, when they asked him what was next. He told them, 'Drinks and dinner!' "

And celebrate while you can.