08/27/2006 11:00PM

T.H. Approval caps unique marathon triple triumph

Email
Horsephotos
Aragorn showed a new dimension in his Del Mar Breeders' Cup Mile victory on Saturday.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Just as Lava Man completed an unprecedented single-season sweep of California's major dirt races for older horses in the Pacific Classic, so too did T.H. Approval secure a similar hat trick of long-distance turf races with his win on Sunday in the Del Mar Handicap.

With his victory in that race, T.H. Approval became the first horse to win the 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita, the 1 1/2-mile Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park, and the 1 3/8-mile Del Mar Handicap. He was not only the first horse to win it in the same year, but also the first horse to win all three - period.

"I'm very happy with that," Eduardo Inda, the trainer of T.H. Approval, said Monday morning at the Del Mar barn of trainer Jenine Sahadi, where T.H. Approval had resided since shipping from Santa Anita last week. "He's doing so good right now."

Inda said T.H. Approval came out of the race well and would be pointed to a race at Oak Tree's meeting, which begins at the end of September. Options for T.H. Approval are the 1 1/4-mile Clement Hirsch Handicap on Sept. 30, or the 1 1/2-mile Carleton F. Burke Handicap on Oct. 21.

Which race it ends up being depends on whether T.H. Approval is to be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Turf on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs, or the Japan Cup on Nov. 25 at Tokyo Race Course. Tadahiro Hotehama, the owner of T.H. Approval, lives in Tokyo.

"The Burke is a better distance," Inda said, "but it's too close to the Breeders' Cup."

If T.H. Approval is aimed to the Breeders' Cup, and thus runs in the Hirsch, he would face Lava Man, who is using the Hirsch as his prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic. Although the Hirsch is on turf, it is at 1 1/4 miles, the same distance at which Lava Man has won the Pacific Classic, Santa Anita Handicap, and Hollywood Gold Cup this year.

T.H. Approval is one of just five horses trained by Inda, who was a longtime assistant to Ron McAnally before going on to train the champion mare Riboletta. The fact that such an outstanding trainer has so few horses baffles many, including Alex Solis, T.H. Approval's jockey.

"Eduardo is such a good man and a great horseman," Solis said. "I hope people see what he can do with a horse like this and give him more horses."

Oak Tree, Breeders' Cup next for Aragorn

Aragorn, who won the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Mile on Saturday to retain his position as the leading contender for the Breeders' Cup Mile, will have his final prep for the Breeders' Cup in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile on Oct. 7, trainer Neil Drysdale said Monday.

Aragorn won Saturday's race in 1:32.68, the fastest turf mile of the meet by .36 seconds.

"I continue to be impressed by the horse," Drysdale said. "I was excited to see another dimension, the fact that he slipped through a very small hole along the rails. He's very talented, and multi-faceted."

Watch out for Lightning Hit in Del Mar Derby

Lightning Hit has been third or better in five starts this year, including a win in a division of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar in his last start on July 19. Nevertheless, Lightning Hit will be overlooked in Sunday's $400,000 Del Mar Derby, said his trainer, Ron McAnally.

"It will be a tough race," he said. "To me, he'll be around 10- or 15-1."

If McAnally is right, Lightning Hit could be a live longshot. McAnally is accurate in saying that Lightning Hit will face difficult opposition in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby over 1 1/8 miles on turf. The probable starters include the stakes winners Bob and John, Genre, Obrigado, Porto Santo, and Union Avenue.

Lightning Hit, owned by Tom Lenner, arrived in the United States last winter. He was second or third in four starts at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park from mid-April to late June, but has had only one start at this meeting.

"He's had a little breather for him, but he's coming up to the race good," McAnally said.

In the Oceanside at a mile, he rallied from last in a field of seven to win by a head under Solis. McAnally said the conditions of the Del Mar Derby will suit Lightning Hit.

"The thing I like most is the mile and an eighth," McAnally said. "He keeps coming. The distance will suit him. Alex realized it in the Oceanside. He's a steady horse, not one with a quick turn of foot."

In his career, McAnally has won 71 stakes at Del Mar, but he has yet to win a graded stakes at this meeting. His next chance comes with Mea Domina in Saturday's $200,000 Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Mea Domina won the Gamely Breeders' Cup and Las Palmas handicaps last year, but was only third in the Osunitas Handicap here on Aug. 9, her first start of the year.

"She was a little short that day," McAnally said. "I think she's good now."

Mea Domina will need to be at her best in the Grade 2 Palomar. The race is one of the toughest at the meeting. The probable starters include Amorama, Bond Deal, Island Fashion, Polyfirst, Round Heels, Sharp Lisa, Shining Energy, Singalong, Star Parade, and Three Degrees.

If all 11 fillies and mares are entered, one will be excluded. The race has a safety limit of 10 runners, with highweights preferred.

Sharp Lisa, who won the Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita in April, was supplemented for $1,500 on Sunday. Trainer Doug O'Neill said it is not certain she will run.

Brother Derek gets ready for El Cajon

Brother Derek, the leading 3-year-old male in California this year, breezed five furlongs in 58.60 seconds on Sunday, preparing for a start in Saturday's $100,000 El Cajon Stakes for 3-year-olds.

The El Cajon, run over a mile, will be Brother Derek's first start since his fourth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes in May. He finished in a dead heat for fourth in the Kentucky Derby and won three stakes earlier in the year.

Brother Derek's time equaled the second-fastest of 49 works at the distance.

"The track is on the fast side," trainer Dan Hendricks said. "For a good horse, it's what I expected. For him, it's a fast gallop."

In the El Cajon, Brother Derek will face Sinister Minister, the winner of the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in April, and Cindago, a maiden winner at Santa Anita last winter who is returning from injury.

Mojave Moon's winnings to be redistributed

The California Horse Racing Board on Friday ordered Mojave Moon's share of the purse from the 2000 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park redistributed because the horse tested positive for morphine. Mojave Moon had finished third in the $250,000 race.

A post-race urine test revealed the positive for morphine, a banned medication.

The connections of Scooter Brown and Dancing Afleet, who finished fourth and fifth in the five-horse field, each was promoted one position and received a share of the $30,000 that Mojave Moon had earned.

The CHRB recently dismissed charges in the case against Mojave Moon's trainer, Bobby Frankel. Frankel insisted that the tests results were inaccurate.

Morphine is a Class 1 medication, which according to the Association of Racing Commissioners International classification are drugs that have the "highest potential" to affect performance and that have "no generally accepted medical use in the racing horse."

* She's Included, one of the leading contenders for the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 4, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Monday morning for trainer Chris Paasch.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen