02/21/2009 1:00AM

Presious Passion lets no one by


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Presious Passion set an extremely fast pace, opened a long lead, but beat only one horse in the 2008 Mac Diarmida, and Saturday's renewal of the Grade 3 turf marathon at Gulfstream Park appeared to be shaping up as a carbon copy of that race.

But instead of folding after posting rapid fractions and leaving the competition far behind in the early stages of the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida, Presious Passion found enough in reserve this time to hang on for a courageous half-length win over Quasicobra and the 2-1 favorite, Spice Route.

Presious Passion was pushed through a 23.54-second opening quarter and 46.14 half by Finallymadeit before taking command passing the grandstand the first time. Presious Passion sped away to as much as a 10-length lead on Finallymadeit and more than 15 lengths on the rest of the pack after a mile, but he appeared to be in dire straits with Quasicobra and Mr. Sidney closing in rapidly turning into the stretch.

Then Presious Passion and jockey Elvis Trujillo showed they were not done yet, turning back both challengers before also withstanding a belated surge from Spice Route.

"When they put up the 46 half-mile split I thought to myself, 'That's it, I'm ready to go home,'" said Mary Hartmann, who trains Presious Passion for owner Patricia Generazio. "But even though he was going fast, Elvis was able to get him to relax - and he had just enough left to hold on at the end."

The victory was the 10th in 36 starts for Presious Passion, a 6-year-old son of Royal Anthem who won the Grade 3 Pan American Handicap in similar fashion here last year. Presious Passion ran the distance in 2:12.10 over a firm course and paid $11.

Hartmann said she planned to bring Presious Passion back to defend his title in the Pan American on March 21.