12/19/2008 1:00AM

Presious Passion shows flaw in U.S. breeding


LEXINGTON, Ky. - By scoring his second victory in the W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder, Presious Passion renewed his claim as the best distance turf performer at the south Florida track. And in fact, the son of Royal Anthem is one of the best turf horses in the country, which he proved with a courageous victory in the United Nations Stakes this summer.

The 5-year-old gelding's combination of talent and stamina also shows us some of the weaknesses of the American program of breeding horses for racing, where economic forces drive breeders to produce early-maturing horses with speed.

Although precocious horses make great sales prospects with their accelerated maturity and powerful physiques, many yearlings that would not bring a tenth as much at the premier sales still become equally successful on the racetrack because of their soundness and ability to handle distance racing.

The grandsire of Presious Passion, the Nureyev stallion Theatrical, is probably the best representative for this type of sire in America. A champion racer on turf as a 5-year-old for Allen Paulson and later a top international sire for Paulson's Brookside Farm, Theatrical sired good-sized to large colts and fillies with scope and quality. They also were notably non-precocious and needed time.

Paulson had the time and the money, and he got the best out of the Theatrical stock he sent to Europe and kept in this country, especially in training with Bill Mott.

After the dissolution of the Paulson breeding operation and sale of Brookside, Theatrical moved to stand at Hill 'n' Dale Farm, where he is still active at age 26 and standing for $35,000 in 2009.

Among the best racers from Theatrical are American Grade 1 winners Geri, Astra, Dahlia's Dreamer, and Shakespeare; Irish Derby winner Zagreb; French classic winner Madeleine's Dream; Melbourne Cup winner Media Puzzle; and Canadian International winner Royal Anthem.

Royal Anthem was not only one of the most talented sons of Theatrical but also is the sire of Presious Passion.

After an internationally successful racing career for Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corp., Royal Anthem went to stud at Rick Trontz's Hopewell Farm in Kentucky.

Trontz recalled that Royal Anthem "was a Thoroughbred Corp. horse, and it's a shame [Salman] died because he would have supported Royal Anthem with good mares and given them the time to prove themselves."

Following Salman's death, however, the Thoroughbred Corp. heirs retrenched and sold horses. There were relatively few top mares to go to Royal Anthem, and the horse had to rely on the commercial market for support, always a difficult proposition for stallions who produce distance runners.

Among the breeders who sent mares to the promising young stallion were Joseph Barbazon and his wife, Helen, who have Pleasant Acres Farm near Morriston, Fla., as well as Barbazon's Sports Bar and Grill in Ocala.

The Barbazons keep about 150 mares and foals at their farm and own between 15 and 20 mares of their own, Joseph Barbazon said.

The Barbazons acquired Presious Passion's dam, the Marquetry mare Princesa's Passion, as a 2-year-old.

"She had hurt her hip, and we bought Princesa's Passion privately after she got hurt on the track," Joseph Barbazon said.

As a daughter of the good stallion Marquetry, the mare was interesting to the breeders on pedigree.

"She's a good-sized mare and is a chestnut with a lot of white," Barbazon said.

Presious Passion is the first foal of his dam, and the Barbazons sold him privately to Patricia Generazio, who also owns Just Livin a Dream, the

2-year-old filly by Trippi out of the mare. Princesa's Passion has a yearling filly by Exchange Rate that was sold privately and will race for Padua. The mare was bred to Theatrical but was barren for 2008.

"Princesa's Passion is in foal to Medaglia d'Oro and is in New York to produce a New York-bred for 2009, and the mare is being bred to Unbridled's Song" next year, Barbazon said.

While Princesa's Passion has appreciated in value over the past six years due to the successes of Presious Passion, the gelding's sire, Royal Anthem, has already left the country.

Royal Anthem sired Precious Passion from a cover of 2002, but before long, market demand had fallen off and Royal Anthem left for greener pastures, Tullogher House Stud in Ireland in 2007.

"We had a pretty good offer on the horse, and he wasn't attracting the mares he needed in this country," Trontz said. "His offspring seem to be pretty useful, but you need the big horses to carry the message that this is a good sire to send your mares to. In Europe, they are using Royal Anthem as a dual-purpose sire for national hunt and flat runners and are getting a lot of mares to him," including a reported 170 mares in 2008 alone.