Racing wide throughout, Michael Tabor's Pass Rush proved to be much the best in Saturday's $200,000 San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) for 4-year-olds at Santa Anita.The Indiana-bred son of Crown Ambassador, ridden by Corey Nakatani for trainer Patrick Byrne, shipped in from Florida for the race. It was eastern-based Byrne's first starter at Santa Anita.The San Fernando is the second leg of the age-restricted Strub Series, which concludes Feb. 1 with the $400,000 Charles. H. Strub Stakes (gr. II). Starting on the outside of the eight-horse field, Pass Rush, the 7-2 second choice, was hung out wide into the opening turn of the 1 1/16-mile San Fernando. He continued wide while challenging the early pace of longshot Traditional, with David Flores riding, and 3-1 favorite Tizbud, with Victor Espinoza, through fractions of :23.04 and :46.54 for the half-mile. On the turn for home, Mananan McLir, making steady progress on the rail with Patrick Valenzuela, pulled his way to the front turning for home. Pass Rush shifted into gear from the outside, however, and kicked on to win by about 3 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:42.37. Tracemark rallied nicely to take second with Tizbud hanging on for third ahead of Rushin' To Altar."I'll tell you, considering he drew outside and there was a little bit of speed inside of us, he ran very well," Nakatani said. "He rated kindly. I was pretty much happy where I was at, and when I called on him he was very strong. Turning for home I was like, 'Okay son, let's do it,' and he did it. And he felt like he had a little left under him too, so hopefully I've got a Strub mount."Tizbud, the full brother of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Tiznow who went into the San Fernado off only a maiden win, was attempting to match his brother's win in the race.
"He ran great, and he had a lot of trouble," said Espinoza. "I got bumped on the first turn and then, at the three-eighths pole, David Flores' horse (Traditional) wanted to get out, and they hit me pretty hard. But still, he never quit today. He kept fighting and fighting. This horse is going to improve a lot." Pass Rush was making his first start in graded stakes company following a close second to Continental Red in the Great State Challenge Classic at Sam Houston Park Dec. 7. He was beaten by a head by Najran, who was third in Saturday's Hal's Hope at Gulfstream in his start before that, an optional claimer at Churchill Nov. 9. The winner earned $131,760 while picking up his fifth career victory in 15 starts while upping his career bankroll to $364,360.Byrne was at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., on Saturday. Jill Byrne, his wife and assistant, who was at Santa Anita, said the San Fernando winner likely will remain here to prepare for the $400,000 Strub Stakes on Feb. 1, the 1 1/8-mile final leg of the Strub Series.Mrs. Byrne said Frank Stronach, whose Magna Entertainment Corporation owns both Santa Anita Park and Gulfstream Park, deserves some credit for Pass Rush's development.The colt has been training at Palm Meadows, a training center Stronach built in Boynton Beach, Fla., about 50 miles from Gulfstream."The horses training there are winning races all over the place," she said. "It is one of the most beautiful places you'll ever see." Pass Rush, bred by Swifty Farms Inc., paid $9.20, $5.40 and $3.60. Tracemark returned $5.20 and $3.40. Tizbud paid $3. The $2 exacta was $37.80.(Chart, Equibase)