06/15/2008 11:00PM

Sloppy prep good enough


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Mary Hartmann said she thought about scratching Presious Passion when the Battlefield Stakes came off the turf Sunday at Monmouth Park.

She opted to run in the slop, and the 5-year-old Presious Passion overcame trouble in the first turn to get second, 8 1/4 lengths behind Call My Bluff.

More importantly, Presious Passion got a needed prep before the biggest challenge of his career - Monmouth's Grade 1 United Nations Stakes on July 5.

"I decided to leave him in because he needed one race before I took him there," Hartmann said. "I was pleased with the outcome. He came back in good condition, no lumps, no bumps. I think it sets us up good for the United Nations."

It was Presious Passion's first race since he won the Grade 3 Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream Park on April 5.

Presious Passion developed into a grass marathoner over the winter with a pair of Grade 3 handicap wins, both at 1 1/2 miles - the W.L. McKnight at Calder and the Pan American.

That puts the United Nations, at 1 3/8 miles, within the distance scope of Presious Passion, a son of Royal Anthem.

"I think he takes after his dad," Hartmann said. "After a mile and an eighth Sunday, he was just getting started. Stewart Elliott had trouble pulling him up. He's developed very nicely, going well past my expectations."

Social Queen may head out of town

Social Queen and jockey Jose Lezcano have become an unbeatable combination, improving to 3 for 3 after Saturday's victory in the first graded stakes of the meet, the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap.

"He's a pretty patient rider," trainer Alan Goldberg said of Lezcano "He's the best young rider we've had in a while here."

Lezcano needed all of that patience aboard Social Queen, who, as usual, dropped back to last before launching the bid that produced the win by a neck in her graded-stakes debut.

The 4-year-old Social Queen came out of the race in good shape, according to Goldberg. In the immediate aftermath of the Eatontown, Goldberg circled Monmouth's Grade 3 Matchmaker Stakes on Aug. 3 as her next likely start. Goldberg is now considering coming back sooner in the $200,000 James Penny Memorial at Philadelphia Park on July 7 or the $300,000 Dance Smartly Stakes at Woodbine on July 12.

Chirac continues to improve

The Spend a Buck Stakes on Saturday was a formful affair, with Cool Coal Man eking out the win over Atoned.

Those two had the benefit of extensive stakes seasoning, a decisive factor in the mile-and-70-yard race for 3-year-olds.

Next came Chirac, a very respectable third in his stakes debut.

"He came out of the race well, and I was pretty happy with the way he ran," said trainer Jane Cibelli. "He got beat by two very legitimate horses. Honestly, we were running for third money if those two showed up."

It was an important step forward for Chirac, who was making only his fifth start. It was also a class test for Chirac, who ran for a $25,000 claiming price in his first race in February at Tampa Bay Downs.

"I'm a firm believer that the easier you can start a horse out, the better off you are," Cibelli said. "It's to the horse's benefit. He gains confidence. Sligo Bay hasn't exactly made his mark as a stud, and he's the first foal out of the mare [Mona Lisa]. There was nothing there that suggested he was going to get claimed. We started him out at $25,000 because we could."

Now the goals are more ambitious. Cibelli will look next for a second-level allowance, with another stakes a possibility later in the season.