06/11/2010 12:00AM

Presious Passion gets a tune-up

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - The longer-term objective for Presious Passion is a bid for a record-setting third straight win in the United Nations Stakes over the Independence Day weekend. The Grade 3, $250,000 Monmouth Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday is an important step toward that goal.

"I'm just looking for a good effort to set him up for the United Nations" said trainer Mary Hartmann. "This is not his best distance. If he wins, great. We want to go into the United Nations with a little bit of confidence."

The 7-year-old Presious Passion, most effective at distances 1 1/4 miles and longer, will be making his first start since finishing last in the Dubai Sheema Classic on March 27. He returns to the turf course where he has enjoyed great success.

In addition to Presious Passion's two United Nations victories, the pace-dominating star of Hartmann's barn also took last year's Monmouth Stakes and the 2006 Jersey Derby at his home track.

This is the third running of the Monmouth Stakes, first captured by Big Brown in his final race before retirement.

The latest edition attracted a solid field of nine. Get Serious, 7 for 9 on Monmouth's grass course, is a top contender in a lineup that also includes Baletti and Dynamoor, the one-two finishers in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy at Belmont.

Blues Street missed by only 2 1/2 lengths in the Grade 1 Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard. He will be joined by uncoupled stablemate Pleasant Strike for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Presious Passion, runner-up in last year's Breeder's Cup Turf, is the 3-1 favorite set by track oddsmaker Brad Thomas. He faces two major obstacles: the aftereffects from the race in Dubai and the presence of Get Serious.

Hartmann sees no indication that the trip to the desert took a lasting toll.

"I see no problems," Hartmann said. "I think he's fine."

Get Serious is another matter. Like Presious Passion, Get Serious does his best work on the lead. Those tactics carried him to victory in the Grade 3 Red Bank Stakes here last September, and in his season debut, a money-allowance on May 31.

Presious Passion and Get Serious have never met. The two front-runners are now headed for a possible duel for their preferred position.

"They have similar running styles," said John Forbes, Get Serious's trainer. "My sense is we'll go ahead and run and try to learn something about him."

Both Hartmann and Forbes said they believe their horses will rate off a leader, if needed. Both need a firm course to be effective.

Forbes rated Get Serious "better than 50-50, more like 60-40 to run" against Presious Passion.

Roman Tiger is an interesting outsider who was disqualified from second and placed fourth for stretch interference in the Elkwood Stakes on opening day. He ran only once last year, a fast-finishing third here in a first-level allowance, because of severe allergies.

"I couldn't stop him from bleeding when he was galloping," Manning said.

The most effective cure Manning ultimately found was bee pollen.

The pollen seems to be working. Roman Tiger has already made five starts this year, including a win in the Florida Thoroughbred Charities Stakes for statebreds at Gulfstream.