09/20/2010 1:57PM

Presious Passion begins second season

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Benoit & Associates
Presious Passion returns from his first extended layoff in an optional claimer Wednesday at Delaware Park.

Has an extended vacation on a farm revitalized the millionaire turf runner Presious Passion? Or is he simply too old to continue competing at racing’s highest levels?

The answers to those questions could become more clear when the 7-year-old Presious Passion returns from the first long break of his 46-race career Wednesday at Delaware Park.

Trainer Mary Hartmann has entered Presious Passion, a winner of $2.6 million and two-time champion of the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes, in an optional $65,000 claiming race scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Presious Passion is eligible under the allowance conditons, which restrict the race to horses who have not won twice other than maiden, claiming, starter, or restricted in 2010. It goes as the ninth race on a 10-race card at 4:51 p.m. Eastern.

After winning the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Handicap at Gulfstream Park in February, Presious Passion’s form soured. He finished 16th in the Dubai Sheema Classic and seventh in the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes on June 12. Afterward, Hartmann decided to send Presious Passion for a freshening at a farm in Colts Neck, N.J., rather than attempt to win the U.N. for a third straight year.

Wednesday’s race, which carries a purses of $42,000, will mark the first time Presious Passion has raced in a non-stakes event since June 2007, when he got up by a neck in an optional claimer at Monmouth.

In his only previous trip to Delaware, Presious Passion finished last of six, beaten 20 lengths over soft ground, in the Grade 3 Kent in September 2006.

Last year, in addition to winning the U.N., Presious Passion captured the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch and finished second, beaten a half-length, to Conduit in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

In preparation for his comeback, Presious Passion has worked out twice at Monmouth, breezing five furlongs in 1:04 on Sept. 8 and going a mile over track rated good in 1:44 on Sept. 14.

He will face seven rivals on Wednesday, including Hugo, who most recently finished second by a head in the Eight Thirty Stakes at Delaware; Safety Valve, whose 4-for-9 record on grass includes a win over second-level optional claimers on Aug. 31; and Crimson Comic, whose best turf performance came when he was second in the Henry Clark at Pimlico in April.