07/01/2009 12:00AM

Presious Passion in hunt for U.N. repeat

Jessica Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
Presious Passion won the Monmouth Stakes here last out, scoring by a nose over Banrock, another U.N. opponent.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Defending champion Presious Passion tops a field of nine for the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

The United Nations and the Grade 3, $250,000 Salvator Mile anchor the July Fourth holiday card. They are also the first domestic Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" stakes this season.

The winners automatically qualify for Breeders' Cup berths in their respective divisions. The U.N. winner gets a spot in the Turf; the Salvator winner earns a slot in the Dirt Mile.

Presious Passion, a 13-1 upsetter last season, also won the Monmouth Stakes on turf here June 13. He faces a solid lineup in the United Nations, a 1 3/8-mile stakes on the turf.

Better Talk Now and Court Vision were third and fourth last time out in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Better Talk Now, still competitive at 10, makes his fourth appearance in the U.N. He won this race in 2005, finished fifth in 2006, and ran third in 2007.

Court Vision, the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby winner last November, is winless in four races this season, but did pick up a pair of thirds in Grade 1 races: the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

Brass Hat, like Better Talk Now, is a veteran of the racing wars. The 8-year-old gelding most recently won the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Completing the field are Banrock, Lauro, Spice Route, Wesley, and Strike a Deal, who missed by only a neck with a game rally in last year's U.N.

He hasn't had the same kick in two stakes this year - the Dixie at Pimlico and the Monmouth Stakes here in June - and trainer Alan Goldberg is hoping for a bounce-back effort.

"We'll find out where we are after this race," Goldberg said. "He got a little sick after the race at Pimlico. It wasn't bad and he got over it pretty quick, but he wasn't up to snuff. It might have taken him longer to get over it than I thought."

Smooth Air tops Salvator Mile

Smooth Air, a very game second to Bribon in the Grade 1 Met Mile, faces seven rivals in the Salvator Mile.

The field also includes Coal Play, the pacesetting runner-up to Big Brown in last year's Haskell Invitational; Keep Laughing; Kiss the Kid; Runforthedoe; Solar Flare; The Roundhouse; and Two Step Salsa.