Declan's Moon, champion 2-year-old and early favorite for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), has been taken off the Derby trail after X-rays disclosed a small chip fracture in his left knee, trainer Ron Ellis said Friday morning. The Malibu Moon
gelding suffered the injury in last Saturday's Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II) victory.
"Yesterday was my birthday and it'll be one I remember, I can tell you that," Ellis said. "We X-rayed his knee after discovering a little heat in there, and it showed he has a very small fracture that's a non-displaced chip in his left knee. The vets are saying it's our call, that we could get a race or two out of him, before it turns into a real problem, but with him being a gelding and us wanting to do the right thing with the horse, we're going to give him 60 days off."
Declan's Moon, owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel, kept his unbeaten streak going with an impressive victory in the Santa Catalina, his fifth career victory in as many starts.
"It's really a big disappointment," Ellis said. "He's not the least bit sore, and it's more precautionary than anything, because he's never had any heat in his legs. It made me nervous enough that I thought I had better go ahead and X-ray him, and I was sadly surprised that there was actually something there.
"It's a tough game. People keep saying enjoy the ride, but as a trainer, you can't enjoy the ride. Until the mission is accomplished you can never relax. What makes it even harder is that this race didn't take anything out of him mentally, and he's as sharp as can be. We're having trouble holding him down around the barn. He's not feeling any pain, but the X-rays don't lie. I could have worked him a couple of times, but everything we do from here on would compromise how he'll be down the road. If we give him time off he'll be 100%. It's too bad for the Siegels, because he's a special horse. You can do everything right and it doesn't always work out. But I think it'll all bear out in the end.
"I just can't wait to see the horse who can be 2-year-old champion and can win the Derby. It's going to take a horse like a Spectacular Bid to do that."
Ellis said the weather may have played a major part in the injury. "I have to blame this on Mother Nature," he said. "If we don't get that big downpour the day before, they wouldn't have to leave the track sealed all day. And when they unseal a racetrack it has be firmer underneath than it should be. It's not Santa Anita's fault, because they have to protect the track."