04/21/2006 12:00AM

T.H. Approval's goal

Benoit & Associates
T.H. Approval's year has been geared toward getting him ready for the San Juan Capistrano.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The 2006 campaign of T.H. Approval has been geared entirely toward a defense of his title in Sunday's $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita.

When T.H. Approval resumed training last fall after recovering from a minor injury, trainer Eduardo Inda called the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano his main goal. That plan has not changed.

ran gamely in his first two starts this year, finishing second in stakes at 1 1/2 miles on turf. He lost by three-quarters of a length in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap on Feb. 26 and by a length in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap on March 25.

In both races, T.H. Approval rallied to reach contention in the final furlong. For the San Juan Capistrano, Inda is banking that the marathon distance of about 1 3/4 miles on turf will separate T.H. Approval from his 12 rivals.

"The two races he's run have been very good," Inda said. "Both times he finished very good. I know he needed the first race."

Owned by Tadahiro Hotehama, T.H. Approval, 5, is trying to become the first repeat winner of the San Juan Capistrano since Niarkos in 1967-68.

"It's a prestigious race," Inda said. "This is the race I was thinking about all the time. It would be nice to win it again."

T.H. Approval is one of two graded-stakes winners in the field, joined by Golden Rahy, who won the Grade 3 Carleton Burke Handicap last October. Golden Rahy will be an outsider in the San Juan. In his only start of the year, he finished last of seven in the San Luis Rey Handicap, his first race since joining trainer Doug O'Neill's stable.

have placed in graded or group stakes. Misto Quente, trained by Bobby Frankel, was second in the 2004 Brazilian Derby. The San Juan is his 11th start in the United States, but first in a stakes. He won an optional claimer at 1 1/8 miles on turf on Feb. 20.

Wild Buddy will set the pace. He led by as many as 10 lengths in the San Luis Rey Handicap before finishing third, two lengths behind King's Drama.

The distance will not be an issue for two former Europeans - One Off and Quinquin the King.

won at 1 3/4 miles in England in 2003, the final victory of a six-race winning streak. Quinquin the King won at 1 7/8 miles in France last year.