10/08/2005 12:00AM

Captain Squire shows heart in win


ARCADIA, Calif. - Captain Squire won his second straight race since returning from a 14 1/2-month layoff and earned a likely berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint with a hard-fought victory in the Grade 1, $236,000 on Saturday at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

Captain Squire, breaking from the rail, was involved in a furious battle for the lead during sizzling early fractions of 21.12 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 43.34 for a half-mile. Several horses made runs at him during the stretch, but he turned all of them back to beat Zanzibar by a half-length in 1:08.85 for six furlongs on the fast main track.

Indian Country, who was last early, closed fast for third in a race that flattered his closing style. Gotaghostofachance, who encountered some traffic trouble while trying to rally along the rail, finished fourth in the field of seven.

Corey Nakatani, the rider of last-place finisher Bear in the Woods, claimed foul against both Zanzibar and Bilo, alleging interference, but the stewards made no change.

Captain Squire ($6.20) had surgery in the summer of 2004 to remove knee chips. He returned Aug. 24 at Del Mar and won an optional-claiming race in which he could have been claimed for $125,000. A 6-year-old gelding, Captain Squire has now won 8 times in 25 starts.

"He's like a fine wine. It seems like the older he gets the better he gets," said Jeff Mullins, who trains Captain Squire for owners Bob Bone and Jeff Diener. "We couldn't ask for him to be doing any better than he is now."

Captain Squire finished second in the Ancient Title in 2003, then was seventh in that year's Breeders' Cup Sprint, which was run at Santa Anita.

Alex Solis, who rode the winner, said he was impressed with the resolve of Captain Squire.

"He's a hard trier," Solis said.

"I never really had a break during the race. From the one hole, we had pressure the whole way. At the top of the stretch I got to work on him. He's a warrior.

"He's a completely different horse," he said. "Jeff Mullins has done a great job with him. He's a completely new horse."