Updated on 09/18/2011 12:16AM

The Tin Man best in San Marcos

The Tin Man, Victor Espinoza up, wins the $150,000 San Marcos by a length at Santa Anita on Sunday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Three years ago, The Tin Man was beaten a nose by stablemate Johar in the San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita, a loss followed by The Tin Man's eye-catching win by 9 1-2 lengths in the San Luis Obispo Handicap.

Sunday, The Tin Man launched his 8-year-old campaign with a one-length victory in the $150,000 , his second win since returning from a layoff of nearly 15 months caused by an ankle injury. The win in the Grade 2 San Marcos sets up a possible return engagement in the San Luis Obispo on Feb. 26 - and has trainer Richard Mandella thinking that the gelding could have one of his best seasons in 2006.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, The Tin Man ($8.20) finished 1 1-4 miles on turf in a quick 1:58.39.

The Tin Man was always near the front. Whilly, the defending champion, set a quick pace of 23.58 and 47.26 seconds, which was not a concern to Mandella.

"He looked so comfortable and (Victor) looked like he had a lot of horse," Mandella said.

Whilly and The Tin Man were 2 1-2 lengths clear of their nine rivals on the final turn when The Tin Man rallied to run alongside Whilly. Racing two-wide, The Tin Man took the lead in early stretch and held off a late run from 28-1 Milk it Mick. Whilly finished third, with favored Atlando finishing fourth.

Owned by Ralph and Aury Todd, The Tin Man has won 9 of 23 starts and $1,226,680. He was fourth in the Breeders? Cup Turf in 2002 and 2003.