08/31/2001 11:00PM

Pass Rush set to rock the Cradle

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CINCINNATI - On most days at this picturesque little track by the Ohio River, Ohio-breds play a significant role.

But when the signature race at River Downs rolls around every Labor Day, Ohio-breds tend to get overlooked in favor of horses from elsewhere, most notably from neighboring Kentucky.

This year, when the $200,000 Cradle is run for the 25th time, the winner again could come from a neighboring state. But instead of Kentucky, the possible favorite for the 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds, Pass Rush, was bred in Indiana.

Pass Rush, trained by Pat Byrne and to be ridden by Shane Sellers, was one of three horses supplemented to the Cradle for $12,000. Purchased privately this summer by Michael Tabor, the Crown Ambassador colt has been sharp since being turned over to Byrne, most recently finishing a game second in the Gilded Time Stakes at Arlington Park despite tons of trouble.

"You had to like the way he really tried to overcome all that," Byrne said from his Churchill Downs base. "We're pretty happy about the way he's coming along."

Eleven colts and geldings were entered in the Cradle, which often serves as a key preview to other rich 2-year-old races in this region, including the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park and the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.

The other $12,000 supplements are Suave Lad and Day Trader. The winner of the Cradle prep, Arctic Sand, was permitted to supplement for $3,000.

Day Trader, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, drew the outside post, but his early speed should allow him to overcome that disadvantage. An Overbrook Farm homebred, Day Trader will be getting Lasix for the first time. He set the pace in his most recent start, the Tremont at Belmont, before fading to third.

Other major contenders include Request for Parole, who won the Ellis Park Juvenile in an upset in his last start, and Harlan's Holiday, an Ohio-bred trained at Churchill by Ken McPeek. "We're going up there to win it with the Ohio-bred," said McPeek's assistant, Pat Daly.

Harlan's Holiday has dominated two restricted stakes, the Cleveland Kindergarten and the Hoover.

Post time for the Cradle, which again is sponsored by the Miller Brewing Co., is 5:15 p.m. It is the 12th of 16 races on River's shared program with Thistledown.

The Cradle is also part of the national pick four wager on "America's Day at the Races."