House Party Hopes to Flower in Gallant Bloom

The venerable Shine Again was assigned highweight of 119 pounds for Sunday's $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II), but is bypassing the 6 1/2-furlong race in favor of a title defense in the Grade 2 First Flight Handicap on Oct. 25.

Shine Again will be missing from action on Sunday, but her Hall of Fame trainer, H. Allen Jerkens, has a more than suitable substitute for the Gallant Bloom in House Party.

House Party, winner of the Prioress (gr. I) at Belmont in July, was one of six fillies and mares entered in the 10th running of the Gallant Bloom. She drew the outside post under jockey Jose Santos, who won this race last year aboard Nasty Storm.

A daughter of French Deputy, House Party has had one heck of a 3-year-old campaign for owner/breeder Joseph V Shields Jr., winning five of nine starts and more than $520,000. Traveling up and down the East Coast, House Party has won stakes races at Gulfstream Park, Delaware Park and Belmont Park's coveted Nassau County and Prioress. Admittedly, Jerkens says the filly has been a little bit of a surprise. She also figures to help fill the void Shine Again is expected to create when she is retired at the end of the season.

"I wasn't that high on her. I thought she was okay," said Jerkens, who won this race in 1995 with Classy Mirage.

"You've got to enjoy these horses while you can. It doesn't always last forever."

House Party, a closer who is dependent on a swift pace, carries 116 pounds, one less than starting highweight Harmony Lodge. This will be House Party's second start against older horses. Four weeks ago she defeated seven foes in Delaware's Grade 3 Endine by a length.

"It's not going to be easy," Jerkens said. "You've got to take them over there and see how it turns out."

Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Harmony Lodge, fourth in last year's Gallant Bloom, upset an outstanding field nearly six weeks ago in Saratoga's Grade 1 Ballerina. A 5-year-old daughter of Hennessy-Win Crafty Lady, by Crafty Prospector, Harmony Lodge has compiled a record of 4-1-2 from seven starts this year. Jockey Richard Migliore, aboard the mare for the first time in the Ballerina, is looking forward to riding her back.

"She was very game and courageous in the Ballerina," Migliore said. "I guess it's a positive for me I'm riding her again, but she's pretty straightforward. Todd (Pletcher, trainer) sends them over there ready."

Migliore won the Gallant Bloom in 1996 with Miss Golden Circle and again in 1998 with Catinca. He can become the first three-time winning jockey of the race on Sunday.

Two Kings Stable's Literary Light is the only horse exiting the Sept. 13 Floral Park Handicap where she finished third behind Barhauser. Literary Light had a tough trip, breaking from an inside post and dueling head and head through fractions of :22 and :45. All things considered, she hung in gamely to finish third.

"We did what we had to do," said trainer Richard Schosberg, moments before saddling Russian Sweetiepie to a victory in Friday's opener. "We were looking to get her stakes placed and we accomplished that. Obviously, Harmony Lodge and House Party are going to be real tough, but if one of them hiccups, we can get a big piece. If not, it'll be a good race for third. She's tough. I thought she ran real well in the Floral Park. She kind of backed out of it and came again."

Literary Light, who defeated the multiple grade I winning millionaire Raging Fever in a Saratoga allowance race two starts back, drew post 5.

Live Oak Plantation's Slews Final Answer disappointed in her last start on Aug. 7 when finishing second at odds of 3-5 in a Saratoga allowance race. That effort looks a little better when taking into account the winner, Bauhauser, returned to win the Floral Park Handicap.

The Field for Sunday's Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap:
1 Belle Artiste George Weaver Jorge Chavez 111
2 Harmony Lodge Todd Pletcher Richard Migliore 117
3 Slews Final Answer Bill Mott Shaun Bridgmohan 112
4 Alchemilla Shug McGaughey John Velazquez 111
5 Literary Light Richard Schosberg Javier Castellano 111
6 House Party Allen Jerkens Jose Santos 116