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Presious Passion: turf ace by a shunned sire

Royal Anthem - Princesa's Passion (Marquetry)

WHEN the schedule of races for the first Breeders' Cup in 1984 was anounced, it was naturally the 1m4f Turf which struck European horsemen as the likeliest to reward a challenge.

After all, the Americans no longer bred many horses capable of top-class form over what they considered an extreme distance, their training regime was geared to developing speed rather than stamina, and in any case, grass was an alien surface to them.

There was logic in such thinking, and at first it tended to be borne out in the results; Lashkari won the initial running for France, Pebbles the second for England. But after six years the home team led 4-2, and now, after 25 renewals which produced 26 winners, thanks to the dead-heat in 2003, the raiders lead by the narrow margin of 14-12.

On paper the Turf has always promised to be America's weakest event, but the defenders have regularly proved competitive, Arc winners have been turned over, and in one year the overseas challenge was repelled by a colt (Prized) having his first-ever start on grass. The home-based contenders are never to be under-estimated.

One of those likely to be charged with the task of repelling 2009's raiding party is a gelding who has steadily risen from obscurity to celebrity as a six-year-old, and who on Saturday turned in a career-best effort to smash the Monmouth Park course record for 1m3f by nearly two seconds with a stunning display that earned him a repeat triumph in the Grade 1 United Nations Handicap.

Florida-bred Presious Passion has taken his time to reach the peak he attained at the weekend, when he was having his 39th start, but his form has been on an upward curve almost throughout.

He showed nothing in two starts as a juvenile, then began to get the hang of things when switched to racing on grass at three, collecting three wins from ten races and setting a Monmouth course record for 1m1/2f while claiming a first Listed victory in the Jersey Derby.

At four he lowered another Monmouth record, this time at 1m, but it was not just in New Jersey that he was able to excel. He moved up in class too, notching a Grade 3 win at the Meadowlands in the Cliff Hanger Stakes and a Grade 2 score down at Calder in the W.L. McKnight Handicap, when he proved that 1m4f was within his compass.

Presious Passion had three wins out of 11 in that year, and he replicated that score as a five-year-old last season. He took the Grade 3 Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream Park in April, graduated at the top level in the United Nations in July, and closed his campaign with a repeat score in the McKnight. That last victory brought his earnings into seven figures.

Three wins have come more quickly in 2009, and that is unlikely to amount to his sum total for the year. He began with a creditable second in the Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes at Santa Anita in January, won the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes at Gulfstream in February, and a month later finished second there in the Pan American, which wasswitched from turf to dirt after heavy rainfall.

After a three-month lay-off Presious Passion came back with a remarkable performance in the Monmouth Stakes (1m1f), looking destined for third place halfway up the home straight, but somehow finding reserves that enabled him to wear down Proudinsky and Banrock again and win by the narrowest of margins.

But if that run was remarkable, Saturday's came in the ‘had to be seen to bebelieved' category. Presious Passion shot out of the gate, and jockey Elvis Trujillo made no attempt to restrain him – always assuming he might have been able to – as he set fractions that would have done credit to a top-grade sprinter.

Through the half-mile in 45.20 and six furlongs in 1:09.81 he was fully 20 lengths clear of his rivals, and there were still five more furlongs to travel.

Of course, he could not maintain that pace throughout, and it was clear that some of his pursuers would eventually reduce his advantage, but there was never a moment when defeat seemed possible.

At the line, where he stopped the clock at 2:10.97, he had two lengths to spare over Lauro (a sonof Monsun who has been Group 2-placed in Germany) and 1.81 seconds over the old record, set by Balto Star in the same race six years ago.

Only three other horses have ever won two other editions of the United Nations. Two of them, Manila and English Channel, were also winners of the Breeders' Cup Turf. The other was the great Round Table, who would no doubt have done so too, had there been a Breeders' Cup in the 1950s.

Presious Passion is the first, and probably the last, star performer for his sire Royal Anthem, who was always going to find it hard to attract mares of quality in Kentucky, but now finds it easy to attract mares in quantity as a jumps stallion in Ireland. He is already accustomed to covering three-figure books.

Now that the likes of Montjeu and Galileo have shown that the prevalent prejudice against middle-distance performers at stud was irrational and just plain wrong, we have reason to hope that others of that ilk will be granted appropriate chances in the stallion ranks. But that shift in perceptions has come too late for Royal Anthem, who was, let's not forget, a better racehorse than last year's champion sire.

Having been runner-up to Daylami in the Coronation Cup, Royal Anthem produced an exceptional performance to win the Juddmonte International by the record margin of eight lengths, then was second to Daylami again in the Breeders' Cup Turf on his first run from Bill Mott's barn.

Healso scored an easy victory at Grade 1 level in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup when he reappeared at five, and was everyone's idea of the winner of the Dubai Sheema Classic until a tendon swelled up to end his career.

Kentucky breeders forgave Theatrical for being a late-maturing, staying grass-course specialist, but they shunned his best son for emulating him. For all that, he got another in the same mould out of an unraced mare who is demonstrably the best runner from his family in recent generations.

The Americans may not seek to breed horses who find their best form over middle distances on grass as senior citizens, but occasionally they come along regardless of breeders' intentions.

And if Presious Passion manages to repel the European raiders at Santa Anita in the autumn, they might just wish that they had given Royal Anthem better chances.



Bred by John Franks in Kentucky. $500,000 Barretts March 2-y-o. Won 6 (1m2f-1m4f) of 12 starts, viz. unraced at 2 years, 4 (inc. King Edward VII S.-Gr2, Canadian International-CanGr1) out of 6 at 3 years, 1 (Juddmonte International S.-Gr1) out of 5 at 4 years, 1 (Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup H.-Gr1) out of 1 at 5 years. Also 2ndin Coronation Cup and Breeders' Cup Turf at 4, 3rd in King George VI & Queen Elizabeth S. at 3. Earned $1,876,876.

Tall (16.3hh) well-made individual. Top-class middle-distance performer on both sides of the Atlantic. Retired early as 5-y-o following injury.

Well bred. The best son of his sire, a top-class middle-distance runner on grass. Half-brother to several winners, inc. Sharp Cat (by Storm Cat; won 7 Gr1 races) and Star Recruit (by Al Nasr; Gr3 winner, Gr1-placed).

Dam smart stakes-winner out of a stakes-winning half-sister to the dam of Rousillon (Sussex S., Prix du Moulin de Longchamp).
To stud in Kentucky at 6 years, now resident at Tullogher House Stud, Co. Kilkenny,Ireland. Sire of 6 crops of racing age, inc. notable winner: Presious Passion (United Nations H.-Gr1, twice).


Bred by Mrs J.G. Jones, sen & David Houchin in Kentucky. $25,000 Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-yo. Unraced.

Just respectably bred. By a tough and consistent Gr1 winner on dirt and grass, sire of two Breeders'Cup Sprint winners, but of little else of real class. Half-sister to modest winners by King of Kings and Dixie Union. Dam respectable performer on grass, winning 4 minor stakes, half-sister to 4 lesser winners. Grand-dam unraced half-sister to 8 winners,inc. Bemo (dual Gr1 winner on grass) and Prince Hagley stakes-winner, Gr3-placed).

From minor branch of family tracing to Myrtlewood, ancestress of Mr Prospector and Seattle Slew.

To stud at 3 and dam of: Presious Passion (2003 g by Royal Anthem; multiple Gr1 winner), Note d'Amour (2004 f by Notebook; placed), Just Livin a Dream (2006 f by Trippi; winner), Exchangeable (2007 f by Exchange Rate; unraced to date). She was barren in 2008.


In the form of his life at the age of six, and seems sure to be one of the leading home contenders for the Breeders' Cup Turf.






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