Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Harmony Lodge, with John Velazquez riding, circled the field on the turn for home and went on win the $100,000 First Lady Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park Sunday.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 5-year-old Hennessy mare won by two lengths over Fly Me Crazy in a six-furlong time of 1:10.31 on a fast track. Haunted Lass was another two lengths behind in third.
Harmony Lodge, starting on the outside of the field of seven, raced wide on the backstretch in fifth place, but picked up the leaders Forest Heiress, Haunted Lass and Bruanna with a bold four-wide move on the turn. Taking command at the top of the stretch, Harmony Lodge quickly pulled away from the fading 4-5 favorite, Forest Heiress, and Bruanna while Fly Me Crazy rallied well in the stretch to take second.
Forest Heiress, with Jerry Bailey riding for trainer Bill Mott, was rushed up to the lead after breaking slowly to take the lead from Bruanna in the first half-mile. The opening fractions were a swift :21.88 and :44.89. She wilted on the turn, however, and Bruanna, with Egar Prado aboard, faded as well.
Part of Pletcher's Palm Meadows barn, Harmony Lodge was making her first start since Oct. 26, when she finished fifth finish in the muddy Safely Kept Handicap at Arlington on Breeders' Cup day. She picked up her first career graded stakes victory and her fifth win overall in 11 starts. The winning share of $60,000 pushes her career earnings to about $220,000. Harmony Lodge was bred in Kentucky by Sabine Stables.
Sent off at 6-1, she paid $15.60, $10.20 and $6.60. Fly Me Crazy, ridden by Jose Santos, returned $8.80 and $5.60. Haunted Lass, with Mark Guidry on, paid $6.80.