Undefeated Declan's Moon, who returned from his smasher in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) to take last month's Hollywood Prevue (gr. III), is expected to be accorded favoritism among eight entrants in the $449,500 Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) Saturday.Facing a field that includes the winner of both the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), Wilko, and the Champagne (gr. I), Proud Accolade, a victory for the Jay Em Ess Stable-owned Declan's Moon would sew up a strong case for the Eclipse Award as the 2004 2-year-old of the year. The 1 1/16-mile Hollywood Futurity has yielded five Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winners.After a five-length maiden victory at Del Mar in July, Declan's Moon came back in September's seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity to stun heavily favored Roman Ruler at odds of 6-1 following a blistering stretch duel. The Maryland-bred Malibu Moon gelding received the highest Beyer figure posted by any 2-year-old this year.Instead of pursuing the Breeders' Cup, trainer Ron Ellis aimed at the Hollywood Futurity while tuning up in the Prevue, which he won by two lengths after stalking the leaders. Declan's Moon, who has earned $239,400, completed his preparations for the Futurity with a sizzling five-furlong work of :58 3/5 on Sunday under jockey Victor Espinoza. "Victor said he worked better than he did going into his last race," commented Ellis. "I didn't think he could work any better than he did last time."Wilko, a British import, could not have been more impressive in the BC Juvenile, his first start in the United States and his first over a dirt surface. He rallyied over the final quarter of mile for a three-quarters of a length win at odds of 28-1. Wilko's two previous victories in ten prior races in Europe had been achieved in novice stakes in England. Transferred to the Hollywood Park barn of Craig Dollase in accordance with a pre-Breeders' Cup agreement, the Kentucky-bred has been training swiftly for the Futurity.Dollase capped Wilko's preparations with an easy half-mile work in :48 4/5 on Monday. According to the trainer, the son of Awesome Again has acclimated nicely to Hollywood Park. Trained by Jeremy Noseda in Great Britain and in the Breeders' Cup, Wilko's relocation had been preplanned by owners J. Paul Reddam and Susan Roy. Corey Nakatani assumes the reins of the chestnut gelding, an earner of $880,494 ($780,000 of it in the Breeders' Cup).
Proud Accolade represents the Eastern-based stable of Todd Pletcher, the national leader in earnings by a trainer, and he will be fitted in blinkers on Saturday after his sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup produced the only flaw on his record.Owned by Padua Stables, Proud Accolade has been training at Hollywood Park for the past three weeks. He breezed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 on Sunday. Victorious in his first three starts including Belmont Park's Champagne Stakes, the Florida-bred was the 5-2 second choice to favored Roman Ruler in the Breeders' Cup. Neither he nor fifth-place Roman Ruler seriously threatened Wilko at Lone Star Park. Regular rider Jorge Velazquez will be back aboard.All three favorites could claim an Eclipse with a victory in the Futurity. Kentucky Derby runner-up Lion Heart won the race last year. In measuring what the 2004 renewal come mean, Declan Moon's trainer Ellis noted, "I just never dreamed there'd be so much riding on this race."Estimated $449,500 Hollywood Futurity (gr. I), 2-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Wilko, Corey Nakatani
2. Southern Africa, Tyler Baze
3. Declan's Moon, Victor Espinoza
4. Giacomo, Mike Smith
5. Proud Accolade, John Velazquez
6. Bushwacker, Rene Douglas
7. General Jumbo, David Flores
8. Lucky Bid, Kent Desormeaux.
All carry 121 pounds.