02/28/2010 1:00AM

Presious Passion preps for Dubai

Ryan Denver /Equi-Photo
Presious Passion leads the field into the stretch of the 2009 United Nations at Monmouth Park en route to a two-length win.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Presious Passion has already received his invitation to the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic.

But to get there, trainer Mary Hartmann said he'll have to prove he deserves to make the long trip with a good showing in defense of his title going 1 3/8 miles in Sunday's Grade 2 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park.


The Sheema Classic will be run at 1 1/2 miles at Meydan Racecourse on March 27.

Presious Passion, who used both his customary speed and large heart to register a half-length decision over Quasicobra in the 2009 Mac Diarmida, has not started since finishing an uncustomary fifth as the 4-5 favorite in Calder's W.L. McKnight Handicap on Dec. 26. In his previous start, Presious Passion earned himself worldwide respect with his gutsy second-place finish behind Conduit in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

"I'm looking for a good performance and to use this race as a prep for Dubai," said Hartmann who trains Presious Passion for Patricia Generazio. "We're hoping not to empty the tank on Sunday, although with this horse you never know what he's got on his mind. I'm just tossing out the Calder race because I don't think the turf was firm enough for him, and if the turf isn't firm here Sunday, I'll scratch and just train him up to the race in Dubai."

Hartmann said that despite his poor effort in his 2009 finale, she hasn't lost any confidence in Presious Passion, a multiple Grade 1 winner.

"To me, he's the same horse he was going into the Breeders' Cup, but he's always a surprise," Hartmann said. "You just never know what he'll do."

The Mac Diarmida drew a field of nine, including Imawildandcrazyguy who was entered for main track only. Presious Passion's competition is headed by Winchester, Expansion, and Feels All Right who will be making his U.S. debut Sunday.

Winchester finished a late-running third in the McKnight, beaten less than two lengths by Cloudy's Knight. Trained by Christophe Clement, Winchester's lone U.S. victory came in the Grade 1 Secretariat in 2008.

Expansion has not started since capturing Aqueduct's Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap on Nov. 7 when making his first start for trainer Chad Brown. Expansion beat Grade 1 winner Grand Couturier in that race.

Feels All Right was a listed winner in France but was overmatched in a pair of Group 1 races to close his 3-year-old campaign in July. He will make his U.S. bow for trainer Patrick Biancone.