09/04/2006 12:00AM

Passport takes Cradle


CINCINNATI - Claiborne Farm and trainer Frank Brothers struck a familiar refrain Monday when Passport drove to victory in the 30th running of the $200,000 Cradle Stakes, the annual highlight and meet-ending feature at River Downs.

Ridden by Corey Lanerie, Passport prevailed by a hard-fought neck over Izzie's Halo in the Cradle, which at 1 1/16 miles is the first substantive two-turn race for 2-year-olds in the Midwest region. Passport, a homebred by Pulpit out of Trip, marked the third Cradle winner for Claiborne and Brothers, following Haint in 1996 and Laity last year.

"It's always nice to win a race at this time of year with a 2-year-old going long," said Brothers. "This is a pretty nice colt. You always want to have hope with a young horse like this."

Passport returned $11.40 as the third choice after finishing in 1:46 over a fast track.

Trophy Road and Bold Start, the 8-5 favorite, dueled for much of the trip, while Izzie's Halo, a maiden in two previous starts, sat in perfect position right behind them. Leaving the far turn, Izzie's Halo briefly took command before being challenged from the outside by Passport, who had raced in sixth position early before mounting his winning run.

"I couldn't have had a better trip," said Justin Vitek, who rode Izzie's Halo. "The speed softened up, and my colt fought as hard as he could. He really gave me his all. It's sad that either of them had to lose."

Bold Start finished third, another 2 3/4 lengths back, and was followed by Wannabeinclued, Wham, Cajun Mon, and Pewee Valley. Trophy Road and Mister Cugat both were eased, but neither was seriously injured, said chief steward Herbie Clark.

Loose Leaf was an early scratch, leaving a field of nine 2-year-olds.

Passport won his lone previous start, a one-mile maiden race on the Ellis Park turf course on Aug. 6. Seth Hancock, whose family owns Claiborne, said he had not yet thought about where Passport would run next.