OCEANPORT, N.J. -- Presious Passion got a warm round of applause from the crowd of 15,210 Saturday at Monmouth Park as he returned bucking and kicking to the winner's circle following a record-smashing victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations Stakes.
The U.N. was a Breeders' Cup Win and You're In race, assuring Presious Passion a spot in this year's BC Turf. There will certainly be pace in that race, if Presious Passion makes the trip to Santa Anita.
The fact that the 6-year-old Presious Passion scored a repeat win in the richest grass race in New Jersey was a notable accomplishment. The way he won this time was stunning.
As usual, Presious Passion ($7.40) had things his own way in the early stages. The confirmed front-runner discouraged early challengers by setting a blazing pace, opening up a staggering 20-length lead past the stands the first time. And he was moving, hitting the half-mile in 45.20 seconds, a swift pace for a 1 3/8-mile marathon.
"He was going fast," said jockey Elvis Trujillo. "Turning for home, I didn't see anybody coming. In deep stretch, when horses started to get closer, he just dug in more."
To the dismay of his rivals, Presious Passion never stopped. He finished the mission in 2:10.97, crushing the old stakes record of 2:12.89 set by English Channel in 2007.
"It was a super performance," said trainer Mary Hartmann. "It's better than anything he's done so far. I'm just thrilled and Elvis rides him great."
Lauro closed ground in the stretch, cutting the final margin to two lengths. Brass Hat got third, followed by Spice Route, Banrock, Court Vision, the 9-5 favorite; Strike a Deal, and Wesley.
Better Talk Now was an early scratch after injuring a splint bone in a hind leg. The 10-year-old Better Talk Now won this race in 2005.
Salvator Mile: Coal Play uncatchable
Coal Play led all the way, winning the Grade 3, $250,000 Salvator Mile by three lengths over Smooth Air.
Like the U.N., the Salvator was a Breeders' Cup Win and You're In stakes. The 4-year-old Coal Play now has a guaranteed berth in the BC Dirt Mile.
It was a bit of payback for Coal Play, who raced so gallantly last year in Monmouth's biggest race, the $1 million Haskell Invitational.
He settled for second that afternoon, carving out the pace only to be beaten by a desperate rally from Big Brown.
In the Salvator, there was no catching Coal Play.
Joe Bravo gunned the colt trained by Nick Zito right to the front with Smooth Air, the 7-5 favorite, sitting a pocket trip behind the pacesetter.
Two Step Salsa prompted the pace on the outside while Bravo maintained a snug hold on the leader.
Coal Play sprinted clear with a quarter of a mile to run with only Smooth Air in position to reel him in.
Paco Lopez guided Smooth Air off the fence, but the runner-up in the Met Mile could not close the gap as he drifted wide through the lane.
"When this horse gets things his way, he's real tough," Bravo said. "They tried him several times but he just kept giving more."
Solar Flare was third followed by Two Step Salsa, Kiss the Kid, The Roundhouse, Runforthedoe, and Keep Laughing.
The time was 1:34.54 on the fast track.