06/13/2009 12:00AM

Presious Passion battles back at Monmouth

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Jessica Denver/Equi-Photo
Presious Passion holds off the oncoming Banrock (left) to win Saturday's $200,000 Monmouth Stakes.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Presious Passion looked like a beaten horse in the stretch Saturday at Monmouth Park, but he dug deep and gamely held on to defeat Banrock by a nose in the $200,000 Monmouth Stakes on the turf.

The 6-year-old gelding, freshened since the off-the-turf Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream Park in March, was very keen. He shot right to the front, opening a commanding lead passing the stands for the first time.

Entering the final turn, the lead started to melt and Presious Passion looked be in trouble when Proudinsky narrowed the gap and seized the lead. But Presious Passion was not done.

Under urging from Elvis Trujillo, Presious Passion ($14.80) battled back in deep stretch. Then it became a question of what would arrive first: the finish line or the onrushing Banrock.

"I thought he was beat, but he came back again," trainer Mary Hartmann said. "At midstretch, I was hoping he would hold on and have a little bit left to gut it out."

He did, just barely.

"He stepped up to the plate off the layoff," Hartmann said.

This was Presious Passion's prep for a defense of his United Nations Stakes title here on July 4.

Banrock, a dominant force in New York-bred grass stakes, almost gave Kent Desormeaux his second straight win in the Monmouth Stakes. He captured the inaugural running last year aboard Big Brown, inducted into the Monmouth Hall of Champions earlier in the day and commemorated with a bobblehead giveaway that helped push the crowd to 14,204.

"I really thought I won the race," Desormeaux said. "I'm flabbergasted that Presious Passion came back on the inside like that. I still can't believe I didn't get up."

The Monmouth Stakes capped a big afternoon for leading rider Elvis Trujillo. He captured five on the card, including both stakes.

Proudinsky, the 9-5 favorite, was third, followed by Buddy's Humor; Grand Couturier, the multiple Grade 1 winner making his season debut; Kiss the Kid; Strike a Deal; and Fearless Eagle.

The time was 1:47.32 for 1 1/8 miles on good turf.

Skip Away: Chirac wire to wire

Chirac ($8) led all the way in the $70,000 Skip Away Stakes, beating Gold Trippi by 1 1/4 lengths.

The 4-year-old gelding trained by Jane Cibelli earned his fifth win in 13 starts. The time was 1:35.65 for one mile on the fast track.

Famous Patriot was third, followed by Jake's Bandaid and Get Serious.