A year ago at the Breeders’ Cup trainer John Shirreffs was nearing the end of Zenyatta-mania and her brilliant unbeaten run to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). In the background in the frenzy during World Championships weekend was Marty and Pam Wygod’s Harmonious and her race in the Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT).
The 3-year-old homebred daughter of Dynaformer--Jade Tree, by Storm Cat, came to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup on he own little wave of success off a victory in the American Oaks (gr. IT) during the summer, and an ultra-impressive 4 1/2-length win over fellow sophomore fillies in Keeneland’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT).
American-based 3-year-old fillies have historically found their older rivals a little too tough to handle in the Filly & Mare Turf. However, Harmonious was sent off at 5-1 under the lights at Churchill Downs. She was in forward contention early and around the turn, but faded in the stretch to finish 10th of 11 under Joel Rosario.
“Joel said on the first turn she just wasn’t getting a hold of the track, so hopefully it will be better this year,” Shirreffs said outside Barn 41 the morning of Nov. 1.
“I sort of throw last year’s race out because the turf was very firm,” Shirreffs continued. “Who was it, Workforce’s trainer who complained about the course being too hard? They wet it the night before the race and they had two horses fall on the turf during the day--so it was really slick.”
It was trainer Michael Stoute (and others) who said the course was too hard last year, and he scratched morning-line favorite Workforce from the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) the morning of the $3 million race.
With a summer and fall with plenty of rain, Churchill Downs’ turf course is in a lot better shape than a year ago…as is Harmonious.
With another year of seasoning under her girth, the 4-year-old is back and settled into the backstretch in Louisville for another run at the brass ring. Well-muscled and dappled out in the cool Kentucky morning she looked great bounding out on the main track during some morning exercise.
Although winless this year in Southern California, Harmonious has mixed it up with the best. Beaten a nose Jan. 1 in the Robert J. Frankel Stakes (gr. IIT), she then made her main track debut in the nine-furlong La Canada Stakes (gr. II) in February, finishing third. Given plenty of time, she returned July 4 to run second to Celtic Princess in the one-mile Royal Heroine Mile Stakes (gr. IIT) and was fourth, beaten just a length in the 1 1/8-mile John C. Mabee Stakes (gr. IIT) at Del Mar. In her last effort she was a closing third to Dubawi Heights and Cozi Rosie in the 10-furlong Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) at Santa Anita.
The Filly & Mare Turf, run at 1 3/8 miles, gives her some more ground, and stiffer competition. Harmonious will break from Post 3, just to the outside of morning-line favorite Stacelita, winner of two grade I races.
“I always figure it’s sort of a gallopers race,” Shirreffs said. “It’s a bit of a distance race—you have to have a strong galloper. That’s what we’re hoping for, that she can do that.
“We’re also hoping she gets a good position. We don’t want her in the back of the field; we’d rather have her third, fourth--somewhere in there. She comes home very good; she’s got a good kick at the end.”