Declan's Moon, who was forced to miss a mile work last week due to the bad weather, still is nearly 100% fit for his scheduled 3-year-old debut in Saturday's Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita, trainer Ron Ellis said Tuesday.
It looks as if last year's 2-year-old champion will be facing a small field, with only four possibilities at this time, two of whom have been on or near the lead in all their races. In addition to Declan's Moon, Santa Anita racing secretary Rick Hammerle lists San Miguel (gr. III) and Sham winner Going Wild, San Rafael (gr. II) winner Spanish Chestnut, three-time stakes winner Snack, who was recently sold to J. Paul Reddam, and possibly Cal-bred Julie's Sugar Daddy, a maiden winner in three starts.
"I was a little disappointed I didn't get that mile work in him last Tuesday, because we really haven't pushed him in his works and he's done it so well within himself," Ellis said on a national teleconference. "In his last work, I went ahead and worked him in company with an older horse I have, so he'd get a little bit more out of it and be more race-ready. I'd say he's between the 90 and 95% range of being fit, and I definitely haven't trained him as if this is the end deal..
"I don't anticipate this being his toughest test in the next couple of races, so I haven't trained him as such. They only have so many races in them, so you try to take it easy on them whenever you can. I still think he's good enough to win, and I think his talent is going to carry him through this race. I also don't win to run such a big race that he'd bounce so to speak in his next race. You have to draw a fine line."
Ellis admits he does feel pressure having an undefeated horse. "I've always felt this could be one of the great horses, and I'd love to keep him undefeated," Ellis said. "It's definitely something you think about. But on the other hand, I'm not training him like this is the last race he's going to run in."
Ellis said that because B. Wayne Hughes owns Ellis' other Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contender Don't Get Mad and also owns majority interest in Declan's Moon's sire, Malibu Moon
, the two horses will be kept apart. Declan's Moon likely will be pointed for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), while Don't Get Mad will run in the San Felipe (gr. II), then either the Wood Memorial (gr. I) or Arkansas Derby (gr. II