01/25/2011 2:09PM

Jones optimistic as Yankee Passion makes season debut at Oaklawn

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Yankee Passion will launch what could be a very productive 3-year-old season in Thursday’s eighth race at Oaklawn Park.

“We’re pretty high on him,” said his trainer, Larry Jones.

Yankee Passion heads a field of eight 3-year-olds in the $50,000 optional claiming sprint that carries first-level allowance conditions. Others in the six-furlong race include Philippe, a half-brother to Grade 2 winner T.D. Vance, and Mastman, a romping winner against Illinois-bred maidens at Hawthorne for trainer Jamie Ness.

Yankee Passion has raced twice, with both starts coming at Delaware Park. He won his career debut on Aug. 3, then advanced to a first-level optional claimer on Aug. 26. Yankee Passion stalked the pace in the six-furlong race and finished second, beaten three-quarters of a length.

“The horse he was second to last time out, Star Zapper, went on to stakes after that,” noted Jones. “But our horse, he shin-bucked and has not raced since. But he’s ready to go now.”

Star Zapper finished third in the $100,000 Juvenile at Charles Town and fourth in the $75,000 Dover at Delaware Park. Yankee Passion, meanwhile, shows some nice local works for his return, among them a near bullet five-furlong move in 1:01.20, the second fastest of 70 works at the distance Jan. 7.

Yankee Passion is a candidate to move to two turns, said Jones.

“He’s out of a Pleasant Colony mare,” Jones said. “And he acts like he’ll run on. He looks a little more sprinty and can sprint, but he’ll stretch out, this horse.”

Gabriel Saez has the mount on Yankee Passion, a son of Yankee Gentleman who races for his breeder, Brereton Jones. The horse will break from post 2.

Philippe wired a maiden special weight field at six furlongs at Turfway in his most recent start Dec.  4. He has been flattered since, with two horses from the race coming back to win maiden special weights, Taptowne at Turfway, and Jacob’s Lighthouse at Oaklawn.

Calvin Borel has the mount on Philippe for trainer Jimmy Baker.

◗ Mambo Fever, who last year was third in the Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park, makes her second start since March in the ninth, a first-level allowance for fillies and mares. Jeremy Rose has the mount for trainer Tony Dutrow.