Updated on 09/17/2011 9:50AM

Medaglia d'Oro back for Strub

Medaglia d'Oro, second in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, gallops at Santa Anita in preparation for Saturday's Strub Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The three-month break between the Breeders' Cup Classic and Saturday's $400,000 Strub Stakes at Santa Anita has only enhanced Medaglia d'Oro's reputation.

Medaglia d'Oro, a finalist for champion 3-year-old male of 2002, is part of a Strub field that lacks the leading participants from the division's top races of 2002. War Emblem, the champion 3-year-old, and Came Home, another title finalist, have both been retired to stud. Harlan's Holiday and Repent are based on the East Coast, while Belmont Stakes winner Sarava recently resumed training for a comeback.

Medaglia d'Oro will be a heavy favorite in the Strub. His five opponents have never won a Grade 1 stakes race.

The Strub Stakes is the ninth race on a 10-race program, which begins at noon. The Grade 2 Strub is one of two stakes on the program, preceded by the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.

Medaglia d'Oro, trained by Bobby Frankel, is seeking his fourth major stakes win in the Strub Stakes, which is run for 4-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles.

If last year's form is an accurate indication, Medaglia d'Oro should not be bothered by the layoff. Last August, Medaglia d'Oro won the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga by more than 13 lengths in his first start in two months.

"Hopefully he'll do the same thing," Frankel said. "I would think he's fit enough."

The presence of Medaglia d'Oro in the Strub, an important prep for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 1, strikes fear in the mind of his principal rival.

"My concern is running against Bobby's horse," said Pat Byrne, who will start Pass Rush. "He may be the best handicap horse in the country."

Pass Rush has developed into a promising colt in recent months. He followed a second-place finish in the Great State Challenge Classic at Sam Houston Race Park on Dec. 7 with an emphatic 3 1/2-length win in the Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes here on Jan. 11.

Following that race, Pass Rush returned to the Palm Meadows training center in south Florida and was shipped back to California last weekend. Byrne said the frequent travel is not a concern, considering that Pass Rush has run over eight tracks in the last year.

"It's one of those deals where if he runs well it isn't an issue," Byrne said. "He seems like he likes that track at Santa Anita. He's run all over the country."

Of the seven 4-year-olds that finished behind Pass Rush in the San Fernando, only runner-up Tracemark will return for the Strub.

Tracemark is one of two Strub starters trained by Craig Dollase. The other is Castle Gandolfo, who finished 12th in last year's Kentucky Derby. Castle Gandolfo has run twice since being acquired by owner Paul Reddam, finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes and third in an optional claiming race on turf on Jan. 15.

The turf race was designed as a prep for the Strub.

"The 17 days makes me a little leery, but he bounced out of the turf race really well," Dollase said. "He's been a hard-luck horse. He had a skin rash and I missed some time after the Malibu. The turf race came up and I wanted to get some condition in him. We've finally got him on a routine. He's healthy now."

It's possible from a pace standpoint that Medaglia d'Oro could take his customary position at the front and prove impossible to catch.

A runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic kept Medaglia d'Oro from winning the 3-year-old championship last year. This year, Frankel is hoping that Medaglia d'Oro can do one better in the Classic. The path to that race begins on Saturday.

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