03/27/2009 11:00PM

Triumphant Flight successful in return

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ARCADIA, Calif. Triumphant Flight fought off a sustained challenge from Charlie's Moment to win his 3-year-old debut in Saturday's $87,800 San Miguel Stakes at Santa Anita.

Triumphant Flight led by a length on the backstretch and by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong remaining before holding on for a half-length victory. Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Triumphant Flight ($16.40) ran the six furlongs in 1:09.54 after setting early fractions of 22.44 and 45.49 seconds.

"He's got class and it showed," trainer Eric Kruljac said. "I told Victor, 'You have speed. Do what you want.' He made the right choice."

The way that Triumphant Flight fought off Charlie's Moment impressed Kruljac.

"I didn't think I had him fit," he said.

Charlie's Moment, a two-time stakes winner, finished a length in front of Turk, the 8-5 favorite who was making his stakes debut. The San Miguel was restricted to 3-year-olds.

Triumphant Flight has won 3 of 5 starts and $206,543. At 2, he won the Barretts Juvenile Stakes at Fairplex Park, and was second in two stakes for statebreds - the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar and the California Cup Juvenile here.

Kruljac took Triumphant Flight out of training last fall because of "heat in a knee."

Triumphant Flight, by Chullo, will be pointed for the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for statebred 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park on April 25.

"I don't know if he can go a mile and an eighth, but I'd like to look at that race," Kruljac said.