Tadahiro Hotehama's homebred T.H. Approval registered his first win in nine attempts on the Santa Anita turf in capturing the $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) by 1 1/2 lengths Saturday.
Trainer Eduardo Inda picked up his first win of the meeting with the 4-year-old son of With Approval
, who was ridden to his first graded stakes victory by Rene Douglas in a time of 2:45 for the marathon about 1 3/4-mile distance.
"He finally got the right trip and (Douglas) rode him perfect. We knew he would like the distance. It's no problem," said Inda, who pointed to Hollywood Park Jim Murray Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/2 miles on May 14 for T.H. Approval's next start.
Breaking from the extreme outside post in the field of eight, T.H. Approval was close to the pace throughout while on the outside, putting away All the Boys with about a quarter of a mile left, and kicking away to a sizable lead in the stretch. Under strong urging, the gray/roan kept to the task as Argentine-bred outsider Fitz Flag, ridden by Omar Figueroa, and favored Exterior, Alex Solis aboard, closed with a rush. Juddmonte Farms' Exterior headed Fitz Flag for the place but never seriously threatened the winner.
Douglas said T.H. Approval keeps getting better.
"He might not be a John Henry horse, but he'll definitely go the distance," Douglas said. "That's why you need this kind of race for him. You need a long one.
"It was a perfect trip and, when I asked him to run at the quarter pole, I knew I had a ton of horse and, for them to beat me, they were going to have to go to the limit because my horse was closing really strong."
Stanley Park, winner of the 1 1/2-mile San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT) March 27 and the 118-pound top weight Saturday, finished fourth as the 5-2 second choice after making an early move for Jose Valdivia Jr.
New Zealand-bred Line Out had the early lead through an opening half-mile in :46 2/5 and continued to pressure as All the Boys took over while recording fractions of 1:11 4/5, 1:38 4/5, and 2:03 4/5.
T.H. Approval, who toted 115 pounds, improved his record to 4-2-4 in 17 career starts. He ran fourth in the San Luis Rey, 2 1/2 lengths behind Stanley Park. The $150,000 winner's share nearly doubled his lifetime earnings to $310,840.
"He's been very unlucky a few races," Inda noted. "Last time, he got stopped at the rail. He should have been second last time."
He paid $12.60, $4.60, and $3.20. Potrichal (ARG), by Potrillazo, produced the winner.
Exterior, the 3-2 choice after winning his U.S. debut against an allowance field at Santa Anita March 9, returned $3.20 and $2.60 while completing a $42.20 exacta. Exterior, a 4-year-old son of Distant View
, posted three impressive wins in five starts in Great Britain.
He was off slowly Saturday and came on strongly to just get up for second.
"He was really lazy today, I don't know why," Solis said. "I had to ride him the whole way."
Fitz Flag, a 5-year-old making his U.S. stakes debut, paid $7.20 to show.
After Stanley Park came Brazilian-bred Gene de Campeao, All the Boys, Special Matter, and Lineout. Mondeville scratched.