08/09/2009 11:00PM

Rain ruins Hartmann's trip

Bill Denver
Presious Passion was unable to carry his speed on the soft turf in the Arlington Million.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - When the plane touched down in the rain in Chicago last Friday, trainer Mary Hartmann had one desire.

"I felt like going home," Hartmann said.

It was too late. Hartmann and Presious Passion had come too far, from Monmouth Park to the Midwest, to turn back.

It was on to the Arlington Million on Saturday, even if the wet course compromised Presious Passion, the two-time defending United Nations champion.

"Had we been a van ride away, we would have scratched," Hartmann said. "Since had come all that way and had never been on the Arlington turf, we gave it a shot."

Presious Passion likes it firm. The harder, the better. Some of his worst efforts have come on yielding courses. This was not his kind of turf.

Presious Passion gave it a try on the course labeled good. As usual, he shot right to the front, opening a 10-length lead. On the softer footing, Presious Passion could not carry his speed the full 1 1/4 miles, fading to last, 10 lengths behind winner Gio Ponti.

"We didn't do well," Hartmann said. "The horse came back fine. His right ankle was green after the race, which had never happened before. They were sinking into it pretty good."

Hartmann hasn't mapped out a next start, although it appears Presious Passion will have to hit the road again. There are no major grass races left at Monmouth except for the Red Bank on Labor Day weekend at one mile, a distance too short for a gelding whose preferred range is 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 miles.

Long range, Presious Passion will head to Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup in November. The United Nations was a Win and You're In stakes, guaranteeing Presious Passion a slot in the Turf.

The challenge for Hartmann will be finding races on firm courses between now and then.

The Chicago trip wasn't a complete waste as Hartmann got to visit Arlington for the first time.

Renda returns for Oaks

Renda has also hit the road, shipping up last week from Calder to Monmouth for the Grade 3, $200,000 Monmouth Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday.

This will be a return to the Jersey Shore, and the site of Renda's breakthrough win last year in the off-the-turf Junior Champion Stakes.

After rolling to a five-length win in her debut at Calder, Renda finished fifth in a pair of Grade 3 stakes: the Debutante at Churchill Downs and the Schuylerville at Saratoga.

The Junior Champion was her first stakes win, and her first time around two turns. She loved it, drawing off to a seven-length win.

"She's already won over the surface," said trainer Juan Arias. "That eliminates any question. Sometimes when you ship in, you're guessing. She loved it last year, so I don't think she will have a problem handling it for this race."

Following the Junior Champion, Renda posted another commanding win back home in the Brave Raj Stakes at Calder.

Those two wins earned her a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, where she ran 10th.

Renda, winless in six starts this season, will look for a rebound with regular rider Sebastian Madrid aboard.

The likely favorite will be Just Jenda, who cruised to 8 1/4-length win in the Serena's Song, the Monmouth Oaks prep.