05/11/2005 11:00PM

T.H. Approval in deeper waters

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Benoit & Associates
T.H. Approval faces a strong group of turf runners in the Jim Murray.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - T.H. Approval ran the best race of his career when he won the historic San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita last month.

Run over nearly 1 3/4 miles on turf, the race exemplified T.H. Approval's ability in turf marathons. Saturday, T.H. Approval, 4, will need a performance equal or better to win the $350,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park.

The Murray, run over 1 1/2 miles on turf, has drawn a stronger field. Of the nine entrants, seven horses have won or placed in graded stakes at 1 1/4 miles or farther on turf in the last year.

The Murray is the top race on Saturday's 10-race program, which includes two $150,000 races - the Los Angeles Times Handicap for sprinters and the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap over 1 1/16 miles.

, trained by Eduardo Inda for Tadahiro Hotehama, will carry 117 pounds, four less than topweight Sarafan, a winner of $2.6 million, and one less than Pellegrino, the winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup over this course and distance last fall.

T.H. Approval won the San Juan Capistrano by 1 1/2 lengths, always racing near the front. He has bounced back quickly from that race, Inda said.

"He's been running every month and he looks good," Inda said. "I feel very confident. A mile and a half is good for him."

T.H. Approval could set the pace, though Deputy Lad and Continental Red, who have excelled at shorter distances, can race near the front.

Deputy Lad, claimed for $50,000 at Gulfstream Park in January by Mike Mitchell, is making his California debut. Deputy Lad, 5, was third in the Grade 2 Pan American Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf on April 2, missing by only a half-length.

Trainer Bobby Frankel has three starters - Continuously, Exterior, and Vangelis. While Continuously has turned in three subpar performances since last August, and Vangelis are leading threats. Exterior was a game second in the San Juan Capistrano. Vangelis was third in the Clement Hirsch Invitational at Oak Tree last October.

was scheduled to race in Hong Kong last month, but a fever ended those plans. In his lone start this year, Pellegrino finished eighth in the Frank Kilroe Mile on turf at Santa Anita on March 5. Trainer Don Burke II said Pellegrino has suffered no ill effects from his brief illness.

"Barring anything unforeseen, he should run his race," Burke said.

Pellegrino and Sarafan are owned by Gary Tanaka and will be coupled in the betting.