04/05/2003 12:00AM

Western Pride takes San Bernardino

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ARCADIA, Calif. - After entering and being scratched from three stakes in March, Western Pride finally launched his 2003 campaign in Saturday's $150,000 San Bernardino Handicap at Santa Anita.

Western Pride's hard-earned victory made his comeback after a 10-month layoff worth the wait.

Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, Western Pride had an ideal trip, stalking the pace to early stretch and holding off a stubborn Total Impact to win by a neck. Western Pride ($10) ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.56.

"I thought he's pull me to the lead, he was so fresh," Valenzuela said. "He relaxed great and when I asked him to go, he took off."

Total Impact, a 10-1 shot, finished a length in front of Fleetstreet Dancer, who was followed by Piensa Sonando, Tracemark, Kela, Lord Jim and Wooden Phone, the 2-1 favorite.

The victory marked the success for Western Pride since the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes in January 2002. In four subsequent races, he finished seventh in the Strub Stakes, second in the Santa Anita Handicap, ninth in the Dubai World Cup and 11th in the Singapore Airlines International Cup in Singapore.

"He needed a rest," trainer Jim Chapman said. "He had been going for two years. He's got a fresh start now."

A winner of 10 of 24 starts and $1,163,819, the 5-year-old Western Pride will be pointed for dirt stakes in coming months, Chapman said.