Last year's juvenile champion Declan's Moon makes his long-awaited 2005 debut in Saturday's $200,000 Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park.
The undefeated Malibu Moon
gelding and early favorite for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) will match up with five challengers in the Santa Catalina, his only prep for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 9.
Trainer Ron Ellis, who said Declan's Moon is nearly 100% for Saturday, could make his charge the first 2-year-old champion since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Santa Anita Derby.
The Maryland bred, owned by Jay Em Ess Stable, capped his 2-year-old season with a one-length victory in the Hollywood Futurity (gr I) on Dec. 18. The year included wins in the Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) and Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) and total earnings of $507,300 as well. Regular rider Victor Espinoza is aboard Declan's Moon, who breaks from the outside post with 122 pounds.
Facing off against 7-5 morning line favorite Declan's Moon will be San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) winner Spanish Chestnut, featuring all the same connections as last year's Triple Crown contender Lion Heart: jockey Gary Stevens, trainer Patrick Biancone, and owners Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor. The speedy son of Horse Chestnut
, a $500,000 Ocala sale as a 2-year-old, won his graded stakes debut in the San Rafael. He sports three victories and a pair of seconds in five career starts, with earnings of $174,420.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas and owners Bob and Beverly Lewis, who have won the Kentucky Derby six times combined, will send out multiple stakes winner Going Wild, who last won the Sham Stakes on Feb. 5. The son of Golden Missile
, who also won the San Miguel in January, has posted three victories in a row at the current Santa Anita meet.
Shipping in from Kentucky is Snack, back-to-back winner of a pair of minor stakes in the mud at Turfway Park, including a three-length romp in the WEBN in his most recent try Feb. 5. Corey Nakatani takes the call for trainer Michael Lauer on the chestnut son of Afternoon Deelites
.$200,000 Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II), 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Go Coyote Joe, Martin Pedroza, 115, 20-1
2. Snack, Corey Nakatani, 115, 10-1
3. Juliesugardaddy, Alex Bisono, 115, 30-1
4. Spanish Chestnut, Gary Stevens, 122, 5-2
5. Going Wild, Rafael Bejarano, 122, 9-5
6. Declan's Moon, Victor Espinoza, 122, 7-5