01/10/2004 12:00AM

During captures San Fernando


ARCADIA, Calif. - In the last year, During has found a niche competing in races that did not feature the top horses from his age group.

The campaign strategy may end after During's gritty win in Saturday's $221,800 for 4-year-olds at Santa Anita, his fourth stakes win.

In posting a one-length win, During showed remarkable determination that will make it easier for owner Jim McIngvale and trainer Bob Baffert to consider more difficult races.

Kept near the front of a large field, During led briefly turning for home, was passed by Touch the Wire in early stretch, but rallied to win by a length over a stubborn Toccet.

Ridden by David Flores, During ($10) finished 1 1-16 miles in 1:41.63.

"During saw those other horses and took off again," Baffert said. "He's a gritty little horse to do that."

During was always within a half-length of pacesetter Excessivepleasure through a quick early pace of 22.51 and 45.57 seconds. On the final turn, Excessivepleasure faded from contention, leaving During with a brief lead. Touch the Wire closed from last along the rail to lead in early stretch, but failed to sustain his rally. Through the final furlong, During fought back, holding off Toccet, who finished a length in front of Touch the Wire in the field of 10.

During was the 4-1 favorite, a slight choice over Anziyan Royalty (4.2-1) and Domestic Dispute (9-2).

The Grade 2 San Fernando was During's fourth graded stakes win. Last year, he won the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park, the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap at Belmont and the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct.

Baffert dismissed the colt's loss in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28, when he was eased in the stretch on a sloppy track. "He doesn't like an off track," Baffert said.

A winner of 6 of 14 starts and $652,030, During will be pointed for the $300,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds over 1 1-8 miles on Feb. 7.