09/04/2008 11:00PM

Silver Knockers's win special to Morans

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The Moran family has celebrated many winning races, but none quite like the Halfmoon Stakes last week at Saratoga.

Silver Knockers, a 4-year-old Maryland-bred filly who had previously placed in five stakes, three against graded company, broke through with her first stakes win in the Halfmoon.

Her victory completed unfinished business, in a sense, for Jim Moran, who bred and owned Silver Knockers and had longed for her to win a stakes.

Moran, the proprietor of Elk Manor Farm in North East, Md., died following a brief illness this past April, at the age of 55.

"To win a stakes with her, and have it happen at Saratoga, made it even more special," said Moran's son, Matt, who is carrying on Elk Manor with his sisters, Meghan and Katie Moran.

Jim Moran was a son of renowned Pennsylvania horsewoman Betty Moran and brother of Michael Moran (breeder of Grade 1 winner Hard Spun and owner of steeplechase champion McDynamo).

Moran established the 200-acre Elk Manor in 1993 and achieved noteworthy success within a relatively short period of time.

The best horse to represent his breeding operation has been Les Arcs, the champion older sprinter in England and Maryland-bred horse of the year in 2006.

He also bred stakes winners Richetta (a Maryland-bred champion), White Mountain Boy, and Irish Osprey.

"Silver Knockers was the first Grade 1-performing filly to come from his breeding program," said Matt Moran, who is in his early 30s. "My father was very proud of her."

Silver Knockers is by Silver Deputy.

Moran purchased the dam of Silver Knockers, Knock Twice (by Two Punch), for $180,000 at the 2000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale. He raced her to win 2 of 17 starts, finish second in the Everget Stakes, and earn $118,160, before retiring to the broodmare band at Elk Manor.

Knock Twice's broodmare potential had been apparent to Moran all along, his son said.

"My dad always liked Two Punch, and he expected him to be a prolific broodmare sire," Matt Moran said.

Moran owned a share in Two Punch, a son of Mr. Prospector who has had a long and successful career at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, Md.

Knock Twice also has credentials through her Grade 1-winning dam, Joe's Tammie, by Zoning.

Silver Knockers is Knock Twice's first foal.

Moran decided to race Silver Knockers after she failed to meet her reserve as a $50,000 buy-back at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Trained throughout her career by Nick Zito, Silver Knockers waited until January of her 3-year-old season, 2007, to make her debut. She won her first two starts, in January and February at Gulfstream Park, and then stepped up to graded stakes company, finishing second in the Forward Gal Stakes won by Forever Together.

After leading by daylight through the stretch in Pimlico's Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes that May, she finished a game second to Time's Mistress.

Then in July, Silver Knockers affirmed her class by finishing a highly creditable third to Dream Rush and Graeme Six in the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes at Belmont Park.

Until the Halfmoon, she had only one win to her credit this season, an easy score in an allowance race at Gulfstream in March. But she had added to her stakes resume with a third in Gulfstream's Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie Handicap in February and a second-place finish to Over Forli-Chi in Saratoga's July 28 Lillian Russell, her last outing before the Halfmoon.

In 15 career starts, Silver Knockers has earned $247,365.

Knock Twice is one of eight mares in residence at Elk Manor. Still on the farm is her unnamed 2-year-old filly by Touch Gold whose future is undecided.

Silver Knockers's full brother is slated for the Keeneland September yearling sale.

Knock Twice also has a weanling colt by Awesome Again and is in foal to El Corredor.

A "complete restructuring" is envisioned for Elk Manor, according to Matt Moran. "But we haven't made a lot of decisions yet."

Three of Elk Manor's fillies are cataloged for the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale, Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at Timonium. Among them is a Two Punch daughter out of Les Arcs's multiple stakes-producing dam, La Sarto (by Cormorant).