Favored Harissa put away front-running Aspenglow in the final sixteenth of a mile to register her first graded stakes win Feb. 19 in the $150,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. II) at Laurel Park (VIDEO) .
Shipping from Belmont Park for trainer Michael Hushion, the 4-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex has strung together back-to-back stakes wins for owner Dr. John Waken's Gem. Making her Laurel Park debut, Harissa put an end to Aspenglow's six-race winning streak while completing the seven-furlong test for older fillies and mares in 1:23.65 over a fast track.
Ridden by Ramon Dominguez, Harissa tallied by 2 1/4 lengths. The bay filly tracked a hot pace set by Aspenglow (:22.44, :45.20) in fourth, rallying four wide off the turn. She went head-and-head with her rival from mid-stretch before drawing off as they closed in on the wire.
“I’d never ridden her before,” said Dominguez, a former leading rider in Maryland who relocated to New York in 2009. “I watched several of her replays and she seemed like a very consistent filly."
Concerned with getting pinned along the inside, Dominguez said he decided to move a little early with Harissa, "but she was well within herself and seemed comfortable with where I placed her. She advanced very nicely when I asked and after going by the leader drew off very nicely.”
Aspenglow, a West Virginia-bred mare making her graded stakes debut, finished second with Travis Dunkelberger aboard by 2 1/2 lengths over the late-running Fascinatin' Rhythm and Forest Boyce.
"She tried very hard,” Dunkelberger said of the runner-up. “We went faster than I would have liked early and it caught up to us in the last 70 yards.”
Harissa won the two-turn Sleigh Ride Stakes in her last start Jan. 4 at Philadelphia's Parx Racing. She captured the Sunland Park Oaks last spring by 3 1/2 lengths. This was her first try at the seven-furlong distance.
Bred in Kentucky by Jeanne Bruce, the winning filly is out of the Time for a Change mare Dynasty. She cost $95,000 as a Keeneland September sale yearling in 2008.
Previously with trainer David Hofmans in California, Harissa transferred to Hushion last summer following a second-place finish in the Iowa Oaks (gr. III).
“She’s a very quality filly,” said assistant trainer Graham Wolfram. “She’s run at a lot of different racetracks in her career, but she always performs at that high level. Mike was really happy with the way she trained up to the race.”
Hushion won the 2008 Barbara Fritchie with Golden Dawn.
The Fritchie victory, worth $90,000, improved Harissa's career mark to 5-3-2 in 13 starts with earnings of $425,566.
Harissa carried 119 pounds and paid $5, $3.60, and $2.80. Second choice Aspenglow, losing for the first time since last April at Laurel for trainer Gary Capuano, returned $3.80 and $3.60 and completed a $15.60 exacta. Fascinatin' Rhythm, the longest shot in the field of seven at 64-1 odds, was $11 to show.
Completing the order of finish was Meese Rocks, defending Fritchie winner Sweet Goodbye, R Betty Graybull,and Kid Kate.
Laurel Park was able to complete the nine-race card despite a high wind warning in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. region.