08/05/2009 11:00PM

Presious Passion always dangerous


NEW YORK - It's a day of major racing Saturday, with six Grade 1 races on the national stakes schedule. The highest concentration of these events is at Arlington Park, where the Arlington Million heads a Grade 1 tripleheader that also includes the traditional supporting features on Million Day, the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes, and the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes.

There's a Grade 1 doubleheader at Saratoga, where the $750,000 Whitney Handicap is supported by the $300,000 Test Stakes. But there's "only" one Grade 1 event Saturday at Del Mar, that being the $300,000 Bing Crosby. That's okay. Del Mar has the nation's only Grade 1 race on Sunday, the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch, in which champion Zenyatta will be heavily favored to remain undefeated.

Arlington Million

The temperature Saturday at Arlington is supposed to soar to 93 degrees, and you have to wonder how the heat will affect the European shippers, not only in the Million, but also in the Beverly D. and Secretariat. This sort of heat is something the Europeans are just not accustomed to. Then again, I remember thinking the Europeans might be up against it for the same reason going into the 2003 Breeders' Cup at Oak Tree at Santa Anita, which, with an official temperature of 99 degrees, was the hottest Breeders' Cup ever. The conditions that day, however, had little impact on the Europeans as Six Perfections beat males in the Mile, Islington won the Filly and Mare Turf, and High Chaparral dead-heated for the win in the Turf with Johar.

But the overseas shippers in this Million (and in this Beverly D. and Secretariat, for that matter) can't be mentioned in the same breath with Six Perfections, Islington, or High Chaparral. So the heat is just one reason to take a stand against them.

In the case of the Million, this race still came up very strong even if the overseas invaders might not be that exciting. This Million attracted this country's top two turf males on anyone's list in Gio Ponti and Einstein. Gio Ponti comes into this having won three straight Grade 1 races on grass. Einstein, if he had anything other than brutal racing luck last time out in the Foster, also would be bringing three straight Grade 1 scores into this, and his would have been an unprecedented triple as it would have come on synthetic, turf, and dirt. But as impressive as Gio Ponti's late kick is, and though the versatile Einstein might actually be getting back on his preferred surface here, they have never met a horse like my pick, Presious Passion.

Yes, I am an unabashed fan of Presious Passion, but how can anyone not be, based on some of the things he has done this year? The way Presious Passion opened up an early lead of at least 20 lengths through very fast early fractions in the 11-furlong United Nations last time out and yet still finished strongly enough to win by daylight was amazing. So was his effort two starts back in the Monmouth Stakes. He set a fast pace in that race, too, and yet after being passed in the stretch and looking like he'd finish off the board, he fought back with his customary gameness to prevail.

The thing about the Presious Passion of 2009 is that no matter how fast he goes early or how many lengths he opens up, he doesn't stop. So what he does is change the dynamics of the races he's in. The riders of Gio Ponti and Einstein can't ignore Presious Passion no matter how fast he goes early, because you can't bank on him coming back. Even if Recapturetheglory, the only other possible pace player in here, sacrifices whatever chance he has by trying to take Presious Passion out early, Presious Passion is better equipped than most to handle it.

Test Stakes

Cat Moves looks like a very nice filly, and it would be no surprise if she won this race. But since she did capitalize on a big speed duel when she won the Prioress last time out, and since she won't be any price Saturday, I'll try and beat her. I'll also go against streaking Calder shipper First Passage, whose last two wins were achieved in races that fell apart in the final quarter-mile.

I like Flashing. I know Flashing finished last of three to Rachel Alexandra last time out in the Mother Goose, being virtually eased. But the race I like her off of was her win two back in the Nassau County. Flashing beat the then very highly regarded Saarlight in the Nassau County after engaging in the kind of bitter pace battle that she does not have to get involved in again here. I envision Flashing prompting instead of dueling with Heart Ashley early and then getting first jump on Cat Moves and First Passage.

Secretariat Stakes

If you saw the American Derby, the local prep for this, you had to be impressed with Reb. I was, and I like him right back.

Reb was lengths the best in the American Derby, but won by only a head because he had to angle outside the entire field inside the eighth pole to secure a clear path to launch his rally. That's okay. Because Reb's race was more impressive than it looks on paper, it might help inflate his price.

As for Take the Points, I do believe he's coming out of the strongest American races, but I'm still skeptical that he's at his best going this far.