Never far behind the pacesetter KIss the Kid while running second or third slightly off the rail in the 1 1/2-mile marathon, Presious Passion rallied three wide on the final turn and seized the lead mid-stretch. With everyone expecting the streaking favorite Stream of Gold to sweep by in deep stretch for Eddie Castro, Presious Passion stubbornly drew away in the final strides. Kiss the Kid settled for third, another half-length behind, after setting a sensible pace on a course listed as good. The late-running Dave loomed a danger with a belated wide move but flattened out late to finish fourth, a neck behind Presious Passion.
Trujillo won his third graded stakes race of the Grand Slam II program, having guided Paradise Dancer in the Kenny Noe, Jr. Handicap (gr. III) and Electrify in the Fred W. Hooper Handicap (gr. III) to victories earlier in the day. He was aboard Presious Passion for the first time.
Presious Passion, carrying 116 pounds, paid a whopping $136.20, $51.60 and $22.80, keying a $2 exacta worth $605.20 with 3-2 choice Stream of Gold ($3, $2.80). Kiss the Kid ($8.80) rounded out a $2 trifecta of $3,814.40, while the $1 superfecta was a track record $76,843.60.
Mary Hartmann, who won the biggest race of her career, trains the 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding for owner Patricia A. Generazio.
“He’s the nicest horse I’ve ever been around," Hartmann said. "I got him about this time two years ago just before he turned three. He had never been this distance before today, but I had no doubt that he would go this far on firm ground."
Upset winner of the 1 1/16-mile Cliff Hanger (gr. IIIT) at Meadowlands in September, Presious Passion gave little reason for optimism coming into the McKnight after being well beaten in his last two starts at long odds. The chestnut son of Royal Anthem ran fifth, 4 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Dave in Aqueduct's 11-furlong Red Smith Handicap (gr. III) on yielding going Nov. 10. He then finished seventh in the Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) in his only previous effort over the Calder turf Dec. 1.
But he was ready this time. Presious Passion settled in behind Kiss the Kid, alternating in second with the fellow outsider Bob's Proud Moment. Mario Madrid, aboard Kiss the Kid, coasted through fractions of :24.23, :48.79, and 1:13.38 while leading by one to two lengths. Kiss the Kid spurted away from his rivals on the final turn and threatened to run away with things before getting a little weary late. The Irish-bred Stream of Gold rallied smartly after being forced to take up earlier for Castro. But the Kiaran McLaughlin traineee could not get on even terms with the winner. The final time was 2:26.13.
“The trainer told me that his last two races were better than they looked on paper, so to ride him with confidence and just try to get a good trip," Trujillo said. "She was right and it worked.”
Presious Passion earned $115,320 for his sixth lifetime win in 23 starts and has now banked $373,528 in his career. Joseph and Helen Barbazon bred the winner, who is out of Princesa's Passion, by Marquetry.
Rounding out the order of finish was Revved Up, Bee Charmer, Royal Challenger, Soldier's Dancer, Interpatation, Dreadnaught, Crown Point and Bob's Proud Moment. Scratched was Golden Strategy as well as also eligibles Imawildandcrazyguy, Rehoboth and Dancing Forever.