02/09/2002 12:00AM

Santa Anita: USS Tinosa sails

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ARCADIA, Calif. - USS Tinosa won his first race outside of Ohio in Friday's Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, USS Tinosa finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.11, winning by 4 1/2 lengths over Puerto Banus. The winner, bought privately by Peter Abruzzo and Barry Thiriot last fall, will continue on the Triple Crown trail. But trainer Jerry Hollendorfer does not yet have any specific plans for him.

USS Tinosa was third for much of the race, tracking the pace of 23.21 and 47.17 seconds set by Shah Jehan and Puerto Banus. Desormeaux kept USS Tinosa wide on the backstretch and through the final turn, emerging with the lead turning for home.

"He relaxed well, but the fight was in the final quarter-mile when we turned for home," Desormeaux said.

USS Tinosa led by 1 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole and won in a drive.

"I was hoping he'd lay off the pace," Hollendorfer said. "The two speed horses went out and we were sitting there."

The Sham Stakes, restricted to nonwinners of a first-place purse of $50,000 at a mile or over, ended a three-racing losing streak for USS Tinosa.

USS Tinosa was third in the Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby on Jan. 12. As a 2-year-old, he won stakes for Ohio-breds at Thistledown and Beulah Park before being acquired by his current owners.

Hot Contest finished third, followed by Definite Edge, Cottonwood Cowboy, and Shah Jehan. A $4.4 million yearling purchase, Shah Jehan was making his first start in the United States.