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Moon Catcher tries to catch a star

AT THE RACES --

July 13, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

Moon Catcher will compete in today's $1,000,000 Grade II Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park.

The 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon-Smartser by Smarten was bred at Hickory Plains Farm in Ijamsville, Md.

"She was the 3-year-old champion Maryland bred and has faced some tough competition in her career," Hickory Plains Farm manager Randy Cohen said.

Cohen and his father, Albert, own the farm while producing some outstanding horses over the years -- including Cojak, a 1976 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes entrant.

That talented thoroughbred won the Tri-State Futurity at Charles Town in 1975 and finished sixth in the Derby (behind Bold Forbes) and fourth in the Preakness. Chris McCarron was the jockey and Hubert "Sonny" Hine the trainer.

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"We've bred 16 stakes winners in 16 years." Cohen said. "Moon Catcher's father was also an outstanding racehorse and is standing at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky right now for $40,000."

Malibu Moon is the sire of 25 stakes winners and 37 stakes horses lifetime, including Eclipse champion Declan's Moon ($703,687 lifetime earnings), Malibu Mint ($723,829) and Perfect Moon ($511,017).

Moon Catcher sports lifetime earnings of $691,950 with seven wins, a place and a show in 14 starts. That includes 2-for-2 at Delaware Park -- taking a $175,000 stakes race and the $500,000 Grade I Delaware Oaks in 2007.

She also finished fourth in the Grade I Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. The race was a mile-and-a-quarter, the same distance as today's test.

"If you thought Big Brown had a rough trip in the Belmont Stakes, you should have seen the Alabama, " Cohen said. "It was a real nightmare."

Ironically, jockey Kent Desormeaux rode both Big Brown and Moon Catcher in those major events but New York-based Edgar Prado has the mount today for trainer Christopher Clemente.

"That was her only previous mile-and-quarter race and she was in all kinds of trouble," Cohen said.

Moon Catcher stumbled at the break in her most recent outing -- the mile-and-sixteenth Grade I Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park on June 14 -- and finished fifth with Prado in the irons.

She will be breaking from the No. 1 post position today against an impressive field, which includes Unbridled Belle, Hystericalady and Spring Waltz.

Unbridled Belle will be trying to become the first horse in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back runnings of the Delaware Handicap. The California shipper is out to make amends for flopping as a heavy favorite in the Delaware Oaks three years ago.

For the first time, the Delaware Handicap is also a Win and You're In Breeders' Cup Challenge race, with the winner guaranteed a spot in the BC Ladies' Classic (formerly Distaff) at Santa Anita on Oct. 24.

Not since Nastique became the fifth repeat winner and sixth two-time winner of the Delaware Handicap in 1989 has any filly or mare duplicated that feat.

Hystericalady, based in California, comes into today's race off a 7 1/2-length romp in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs. That's the same margin of victory she recorded while winning the Hollywood Oaks as a 3-year-old, the race that preceded her previous trip to Delaware Park for the Delaware Oaks.

The race will be televised on ESPN2, starting at 5 p.m.

Back at Hickory Plains Farm



Randy and Al Cohen currently have 54 horses, which is down from previous years.

"It's harder to break even now with the lack of purses and breeders' bonuses and expenses nearly doubling," Cohen said. "If your income stays the same and expenses double, any business would be put into jeopardy."

Marsha Naify is the current owner of Moon Catcher, purchasing the mare in the Keeneland January Sale.

While discussing Moon Catcher, Cohen touched briefly on the current state of the thoroughbred industry.

"Changes need to be made," Cohen said. "Banning steroids would be a big step, standardizing drug rules and regulations from state to state would be another."

Pony tales



· The newly created Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is preparing to vote on a steroid ban.

Although at least 10 states have approved a model steroid ban being touted across the industry, the host state of the Kentucky Derby remains a high-profile holdout.

Movement against steroids gained attention after the Triple Crown races this year. Big Brown cruised to victory in the Derby and Preakness with a legal steroid in his bloodstream, then didn't get a dose before the Belmont Stakes and was eased by jockey Kent Desormeaux, finishing last.

· Denis of Cork, the third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby and the runner-up in the Belmont Stakes, is out for the rest of the year after incurring a minor injury in his left hind ankle.

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