04/13/2013 1:03PM

Santa Anita: Interaction may take to San Juan Capistrano distance

Shigeki Kikkawa
Interaction will look to end a seven-race losing streak when he runs in the $150,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita on April 21.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally is due for a win in a historic race such as the $150,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita on April 21.

McAnally won his first San Juan Capistrano in 1980 with the mighty John Henry. He won it again in 1998 with Amerique but has been shut out since.

For this year’s running, McAnally will start Interaction, a 7-year-old Argentine-bred horse who has been a fixture in major turf stakes in Southern California since last summer. A four-time stakes winner in Argentina, Interaction has yet to win a stakes in the United States, but McAnally is confident and thinks the marathon distance of about 1 3/4 miles on turf in the San Juan will be a good fit.

“He can just gallop down the hill,” McAnally said.

The Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano is a race like no other. The marathon starts at the top of the hillside turf course. The field runs down the hillside, crosses onto the main turf course, runs past the finish line, and then does another complete circuit. It is the longest stakes of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.

Interaction has never run that far in his 22-race career, which began in Argentina in 2008. He won the Group 1 Carlos Pellegrini in Argentina over about 1 1/2 miles in 2009, and an optional claimer over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Betfair Hollywood Park last June, but has lost his last seven starts.

Interaction was second in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup over 1 1/2 miles in December and the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes over 1 1/4 miles here Feb. 9 but was only fourth as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes over 1 1/2 miles March 16.

Interaction emerged from the race with an excuse, McAnally said. Jockey Brice Blanc told McAnally that the turf course was too firm for Interaction’s liking.

“Hopefully, the track is not that hard on him,” McAnally said. “Brice said it was stinging him.”

For the San Juan Capistrano, Interaction will be ridden by Joe Talamo, who was aboard in the Hollywood Turf Cup and San Marcos Stakes.

The San Juan Capistrano drew 14 nominations, including defending champion Bourbon Bay. Now a 7-year-old, Bourbon Bay has started twice this year, finishing seventh in the San Luis Rey Stakes and fifth in an allowance race over a mile at Golden Gate Fields. Bourbon Bay, trained by Neil Drysdale, also won the 2010 San Juan Capistrano.

Other probable starters are Smart Ellis, third in the Twilight Derby here last November, and the mare The Only Key, who beat males in an optional claimer April 5.

The San Juan Capistrano is the top race on the final day of the winter-spring meeting.

The Only Key also is among a disappointing seven nominations for the $150,000 Santa Barbara Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf for fillies and mares next Saturday.

Lady of Shamrock, a five-time stakes winner, will be a heavy favorite.