Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Harmony Lodge, at 12-1 the longest shot on the board, set an easy pace and had just enough to hold off the fierce late charge of Shine Again by a nose in the $250,000 Ballerina Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course Sunday.
Ridden by Richard Migliore for leading trainer Todd Pletcher, Harmony Lodge stopped Shine Again, who made up a huge amount of ground in the final furlong, from winning the Ballerina for trainer H. Allen Jerkens for the third time in a row. The final time for the seven-furlong test for fillies and mares was 1:22 1/5.
"The outside post helped and Richie rode a beautiful race," Pletcher said. "The key to the race was the first quarter for her. She's obviously very fast. Seven-eighths is kind of like the limit for her, so when we got the :22 3/5 quarter, that was very key. When you're on the outside you can kind of dictate your pace as opposed to having someone outside dictating it to you. This was just a perfect setup."
A 5-year-old chestnut mare by Hennessy, Harmony Lodge registered her first grade I win and her eighth overall triumph in 17 outings. She increased her career earnings to $585,120.
"The only thing missing on her resume was a grade I win," Pletcher said. "She has run well enough at times to win a grade I, it's just a matter of getting the right setup."
Sabine Stables bred the winner, who is out of the dam Win Crafty Lady, by Crafty Prospector, in Kentucky.
Harmony Lodge led the entry of Stellar and Gold Mover through much of the early going in fractions of :22 3/5 for the opening quarter-mile and :45 for the half. Willa On The Move made a strong move on the turn to range into contention with Robby Albarado in the irons. But it was Shine Again and Jose Santos, stalking while fourth into the stretch, who rallied best of all on the outside, charging in the closing yards only to come up a bit short.
Migliore said he felt he had it won in spite of how close it was.
"I was really confident 50 yards out, and I went to the stick kind of late, so I thought I had some horse left," Migliore said. "But you can never feel too good with Allen Jerkens running at you. I won some stakes on this horse's mother (Win Crafty Lady), so that was kind of special. This win made it a really great weekend."
Shine Again, a 6-year-old Wild Again mare, earned $50,000 for Bohemia Stable to run her career record to a formidable 15-7-7 from 32 starts with earnings of $1,220,140.
"She fanned out coming home and I had to go four wide, but there was nothing I could do about it," he said. "She's a good mare and was just a jump short today. It's too bad because it could have been three years in a row winning this race. But you win some, and you lose some."
Earning $150,000 for the victory, Harmony Lodge paid $27.80, $11.40 and $5.60. Shine Again returned $4.10 and $3. Gold Mover, who checked on the turn, came back to finish about two lengths back in third and paid $4.20. The $2 exacta was worth $110.50.