Trainer Mary Hartmann came west looking for firm turf for her star Presious Passion and found what she was looking for. The 6-year-old son of Royal Anthem hooked a paceless field and strolled gate to wire for a 2 1/2-length victory in Oak Tree's $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) at Santa Anita Oct. 11.
Patricia Generazio's chestnut gelding is headed for the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) over the same Santa Anita turf course with the victory after clocking a sharp 1:59.13 for the 1 1/4-mile distance. Hartmann said after the race that Presious Passion would remain in Southern California to prepare for the Nov. 7 event at 1 1/2 miles.
The victory pushed Presious Passion's career earnings over $2 milion.
Presious Passion was scratched out of the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Belmont Park a week earlier when the turf course there became soft during torrential rain. Hartmann immediately made plans to ship him to Santa Anita, where Presious Passion had run in January, finishing second in the Sunshine Millions Turf over a "good" course.
"We’ll stay here and go to the Breeders’ Cup (Turf)," said Hartmann, who is based at Monmouth Park with about 25 horses. "The mile and a half is better for him. We needed good weather and firm turf. That’s why we came here from New York.”
Sent off as the 13-10 choice, Presious Passion took the early lead and set the pace while racing a bit off the rail. After a :24.30 quarter mile, he opened leaving the clubhouse turn and drew out to a six-length advantage after going :47.55 for the half-mile and 1:11.58 for six furlongs. The 61-1 shot Quarter Moon raced second, with Times Gone By sitting third.
Times Gone By managed to get within 2 1/2 lengths of the winner at the quarter pole before slowing in the stretch. Medici Code, who angled out in the stretch for Garrett Gomez after being in tight on the final turf, drew within two lengths mid-stretch, but could get no closer.
“Everything went good today," Trujillo said. "This horse stayed very relaxed. When (Black Astor) was a late scratch, that was good for us.”
Medici Code finished three-quarters of a length in front of Spring House, who trailed the field after six furlongs but made a late bid for Alex Solis along the inside.
It was one length back to Times Gone By in fourth, with Rendezvous, Artiste Royal, Sir Dave and Quarter Moon following. Black Astor, who was expected to vie for the early lead with Presious Passion, was scratched by trainer Lisa Lewis.
Presious Passion, whose sire Royal Anthem ran second in the Breeders' Cup Turf in 1999, captured the United Nations (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park by two lengths July 4. He has 13 wins in 41 starts overall with earnings of $2,032,018. In 2009, Presious Passion has four wins and two seconds in seven tries.
Joseph and Helen Barbazon bred the winner in Florida.
Presious Passion paid $4.60, $3.20 and $2.80, topping a $27.80 exacta with Medici Code, who returned $5.60 and $4 in his second start in more than six months for trainer Darrell Vienna. Spring House, coming off a nose victory in the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT), was $8.60 to show.