Presious Passion proved he might just be in the top form of his career as a 6-year-old, scoring his second graded stakes victory in a nine-week span when taking the $150,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) by a half length Feb. 21 on the turf at Gulfstream Park.
A gelded son of Royal Anthem, Presious Passion led every call of the 1 3/8-mile event, vying for the early lead with Finallymadeit and then opening up a commanding lead under Elvis Trujillo before out-dueling Quasicobra in a heated stetch drive. He crossed the wire in a final time of 2:12.10 on the "firm" ground.
Making his first graded stakes appearance since 2007, runner-up Quasicobra was a length better than favorite Spice Route, who edged Mr. Sidney by a neck for third. A field of 10 went to post in the Mac Diarmida.
Owned by Patricia Generazio, Presious Passion has now won four graded stakes since finishing 11th in last year’s Mac Diarmida, all of them coming in similar front-running fashion. The millionaire has done all of his damage in longer routes, winning the 1 1/2-mile Pan American Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream last April, the 1 3/8-mile United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park last summer, and three starts back scoring the 12-furlong W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) at Calder for the second consecutive year.
The McKnight win was Presious Passion’s seasonal finale. He opened his 2009 campaign by finishing a game second to Soldier’s Dancer in the nine-furlong Sunshine Millions Turf Jan. 24 on Santa Anita's wet turf.
Presious Passion’s trainer Mary Hartmann had hoped that the added ground in the Mac Diarmida, as well as the firm turf, would help her charge. That was the case for the chestnut, who posted respectable splits of :23.54, :46.14, :1:11.23, and 1:36.28 while opening up a huge lead on the field. It wasn't until the top of the lane that Quasicobra came onto nearly even terms with the longtime leader. But Presious Passion found more inside the sixteenth-pole and got to the wire first.
“I was a little concerned when I saw the 46 ( half-mile), but he was running relaxed and had enough left to hold them off," Hartmann said. "(Trujillo) gave him a perfect ride. He ran a great race to finish second in California on the wet ground last out. They say it never rains in California, but it did for that race. We’re back home now and we’ll stay here and try to win the Pan American again (March 21).”
Trujillo added: “He always starts fast. I got him to do exactly what we wanted. My only concern was I didn’t want to go toe-to-toe with (Finallymadeit). They reached me in the stretch, but then I switched hands and he responded, so I had enough. He’s just too fast and proved it again today. He’s always in the mood to run and run.”
Bred in Florida by Joseph Barbazon and Helen Barbazon, and out of the Marquetry mare Princesa’s Passion, Presious Passion has produced a 10-5-2 record from 36 starts in his career with earnings of $1,242,018.
Going off as the second choice, Presious Passion paid $11, $5.80 and $3.60. The exacta (12-5) returned $123.60 with 10-1 Quasicobra. The $1 trifecta (12-5-3) netted $209.20.
Summer Patriot was fifth, followed by Baltimore Bob, Always First, Silver Mountain, Finallymadeit and Imawildandcrazyguy. Phil the Power and Slambino were scratched.