01/20/2010 1:00AM

Presious Passion to skip Sunshine Millions


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Perhaps the most anticipated of this year's three Sunshine Millions races at Gulfstream Park was to be the Turf and the expected rematch between Soldier's Dancer and Presious Passion, the first and second finishers, respectively, in the 2009 edition of the event. But a second meeting between the tortoise and the hare will not happen, at least not on Jan. 30, after the connections of Presious Passion decided to skip the Turf and await the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida on Feb. 27.

The late-running Soldier's Dancer rallied from the rear of the pack to catch and defeat the front-running Presious Passion by a half-length in last year's Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita. Presious Passion went on to have an outstanding campaign that included a second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf. He was ultimately voted one of the three finalists for an Eclipse Award in the older turf male category.

Trainer Mary Hartmann originally had the nine-furlong Sunshine Millions Turf on Presious Passion's schedule this winter, but after discussing the situation with owners Frank and Pat Generazio, she had a change of heart earlier this week.

"We just decided that if we want to take him to Dubai during the spring, which is our major goal right now, it would be better to give him a little break and skip the Sunshine Millions," Hartmann said while standing outside Presious Passion's stall Wednesday morning. "A mile and one-eighth really isn't his best distance anyway. This way, we'll use the Mac Diarmida as a prep race, then go for the big balloons in Dubai."

Hartmann said Presious Passion has not been to the racetrack for several days and probably won't return until sometime next week.

"We do this with him periodically," Hartmann said. "Give him a week to 10 days off. It's no big deal. He's fine. You'll see him back out there again in a few days."

Pre-entries for all the Sunshine Millions races closed Wednesday.

Sheppard plans more local starts

Jonathan Sheppard, who won a pair of Eclipse Awards on Monday, was in town on Wednesday morning supervising his troops stabled locally this winter. Sheppard has started just one horse at the meet, the 3-year-old Nadal who finished a sharp third making his career debut in a loaded maiden special weight event here last week. But he expects to see plenty more action in the weeks ahead.

"Part of the problem is that there was a case of equine herpesvirus in one of the barns in South Carolina where we winter some of our horses," Sheppard explained. "It wasn't in my barn, but it meant we couldn't ship from the farm into Gulfstream when we originally wanted to. But I'll have about a half-dozen more coming in shortly."

Sheppard said his major stakes focus this meet will be in the filly and mare turf series for older horses that begins with the Grade 3 Suwannee River on Feb. 6 and also includes the Grade 3 The Very One at 1 3/8 miles. Sheppard has targeted both races for Long Approach, a George Strawbridge homebred who finished fourth in both events a year ago.

"She's going to be bred this spring, but I'd like to get a couple of more races for her before she's retired," Sheppard said.

As for the Eclipse Awards, Sheppard admitted "he was a little nervous" just before they opened the envelope and announced Informed Decision had won as top female sprinter.

"They started showing the tapes of the other contenders, and I got a little worried," Sheppard said. "You never know what can happen with these things."

Sheppard also finished third in the voting for top trainer, even though he was not officially listed as one of the finalists.

"Bob Baffert came up to me during the event and said I should have been a finalist instead of him," Sheppard said. "Bob said the only reason they chose him was because they knew he always took two tables for the dinner."

Pulsion drills for Fountain of Youth

Pulsion, who has not started since finishing 11th after getting knocked around and cut up on the clubhouse turn during the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, worked six furlongs in 1:12.32 here Wednesday.

Trainer Patrick Biancone nominated Pulsion for Saturday's Holy Bull but has opted instead to wait for the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth four weeks later.

"He's coming along nice and easy, and it's going to be a long year for him, so at this stage we'll just wait for the Fountain of Youth," Biancone said.

Biancone also is excited about the talented 3-year-old filly Christine Daae, who earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure winning her maiden at second asking here last week. The win came in her second career start and first over conventional dirt.

"I knew she was a runner all along," Biancone said. "I made a mistake with her and maybe rushed her a little bit as a 2-year-old. What she really needed was time and distance."

Biancone said Christine Daae will make her stakes debut in the Grade 2 Davona Dale on Feb. 27.