10/10/2009 12:00AM

Will Presious Passion keep going this time?

Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
Presious Passion had a 20-length lead before winning the United Nations.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Pick a number between 3 and 20, preferably a high one. At some point in the first half-mile of Sunday's Grade 1, $300,000 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at Santa Anita, the speedy Presious Passion will have that big a lead.

It could be as little as three lengths, the number he led by when he won the Monmouth Stakes in June, or as big as 20, the insurmountable margin he had in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes in July, which he won by two lengths under jockey Elvis Trujillo.

"I never know what he's going to do," trainer Mary Hartmann said. "Who knows with him? Elvis sits like a statue and does a good job with him."

Presious Passion has had a disrupted schedule this month. He was entered for the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park last weekend but was scratched when the course became soft because of torrential rain.

As a result, the Clement Hirsch Championship over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita will be Presious Passion's prep for the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf here Nov. 7.

"I'm just hoping he runs well on Sunday," Hartmann said. "It's a little bit short for him, but we can go to the Breeders' Cup with a race under his belt. We'll be acclimated to the track."

Owned by Patricia Generazio, Presious Passion has not started since finishing last in the Arlington Million on Aug. 8. He led by as much as 10 lengths but faded through the final half-mile, finishing 10 lengths behind turf star Gio Ponti.

"He runs good coming off a layoff," Hartmann said. "I'm looking for a big effort. We trained lightly before the trip. He's fit and ready to go."

Presious Passion is part of a field of nine that includes Rendezvous, who won the Del Mar Derby and will make his first stakes appearance against older horses, and Spring House, a veteran turf marathoner.

Rendezvous will make his first start at 1 1/4 miles. In the Del Mar Derby, run at 1 1/8 miles, he rallied from eighth in a field of nine to win by a nose over Battle of Hastings.

Presious Passion could face an early threat from Black Astor, who won the Grade 2 Sunset Handicap from the front at Hollywood Park in July, but was last of 10 in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 30.

Artiste Royal, who won this race in 2007, is a threat from off the pace. He has lost six straight since winning the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes on this course Jan. 19.

Spring House has won three turf marathons in California this year, including a nose win in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap over 1 3/8 miles on turf. Despite his success, trainer Julio Canani said he is not convinced Spring House can be effective against a front-runner such as Presious Passion.

"Who's going to be alongside of him?" Canani said. "Presious Passion is a nice horse."

Canani said he sees the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship as a prep for the $1.8 million Hong Kong Vase in December, not the BC Turf, for Spring House.

"He fires every time, that's the good thing about him," Canani said.