Grade I Winner Passinetti Bucks Odds Again

Gary Tanaka's grade I winner Passinetti is back in training after a second lengthy layoff and the 9-year-old gelding is less than two weeks away from racing, according to trainer Ben Cecil.

Under jockey Tony Farina, the bay worked five furlongs in 1:03 over Santa Anita's firm turf course Wednesday morning.

"He was supposed to work seven-eighths but the saddle slipped," Cecil said.

"I about had a heart attack," he added, when he saw Farina pulling up Passinetti two furlongs before the finish line, "but it was only the saddle, thank God."

Passinetti, who suffered a suspensory injury in 1999 and subsequently spent nearly three years on the shelf, returned to training in late 2002 and won the 2003 San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IT) after finishing fourth in that year's Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT). Sent to the sidelines again shortly after winning his lone career graded stakes, he's had at least one other comeback aborted thanks to the recurring suspensory injury.

"If at any point the injury flares up or comes back I'll stop on him immediately and he'll be my pony," Cecil explained. "He's doing really well. Right now he's doing as good as I've seen him. He looked so good on the farm we decided to try it again. When the people who get on him in the morning find out he's 9, they can't believe it. He acts like a 2 or 3-year-old the way he bucks and squeals."

Kentucky-bred Passinetti, a son of Slew o'Gold and the Lyphard mare Cloeliea, began his career in France in 1998, winning a non-graded stakes and placing third in another before being shipped back to America in 1999 where he finished second in the Virginia Derby. Overall Passinetti has captured three of his 17 career starts, with two seconds and five thirds, for earnings of $387,983.

According to Cecil, Passinetti will most likely start in a non-winner of three "other than" allowance event at nine furlongs on the turf on Feb. 18.