02/21/2009 1:00AM

No price on Presious Passion


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Presious Passion's backers have been well rewarded for their loyalty to the well-traveled turf specialist over the past year. Saturday, the faithful will have to settle for a shorter price but likely no less a performance than they have become accustomed to from Presious Passion, who may even be favored in the Grade 3, $150,000 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park.

Presious Passion was 20-1 when he won the Grade 3 Pan American here last spring, 13-1 when he captured the Grade 1 United Nations last summer at Monmouth Park, 7-1 when he won the W.L. McKnight Handicap in December at Calder, and 9-1 when narrowly defeated by Soldier's Dancer in the Sunshine Millions Turf last month at Santa Anita.

Presious Passion obviously can handle just about any turf course, although trainer Mary Hartmann said she believes the local strip, which has been dried out and speed favoring over the past few weeks, should suit him better than most.

"He loved that hard course over at Calder when he won the McKnight, and the same was true when he went out to Santa Anita for the Sunshine Millions," said Hartman.

Presious Passion stopped after setting lightning-fast fractions in the 2008 Mac Diarmida but rebounded to win the 12-furlong Pan American three weeks later after opening a long early lead.

"The key for him is pace, as those two races proved," said Hartmann. "He doesn't necessarily have to be on the lead as long as the pace is right."

Presious Passion does not figure to make the early lead on Saturday with Finallymadeit in the lineup and breaking from the rail. The 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida will be Finallymadeit's fourth start since the meet opened on Jan. 3 but only his second ever on grass. Finallymadeit returned on just one week's rest to finish second behind Albertus Maximus in the Grade 1 Donn on Jan. 31.

Multiple graded stakes winner Always First, who rallied to finish third in the McKnight, should relish the pace presence of Finallymadeit in his rematch with Presious Passion.

The same can be said for Spice Route, who has not started since upsetting Soldier's Dancer to capture Calder's Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap on Dec. 6. Spice Route, a proven stayer, finished second last fall in the 12-furlong Grade 1 Canadian International.