California shipper Harmonious easily ran away from Evening Jewel in the stretch to win the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) (VIDEO) by 4 1/4 convincing lengths Oct. 16 at Keeneland.
The lightly raced daughter of Dynaformer was making just her sixth lifetime start in a career that did not begin until April. During that span, she has won four times, including the grade I American Oaks at Hollywood Park in July. Harmonious entered the race off a runner-up finish to Evening Jewel in the Aug. 21 Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT).
John Shirreffs trained the winner for Martin, Emily, and Pam Wygod, who also bred the horse in Kentucky.
With regular rider Joel Rosario aboard the dark bay/brown filly, Harmonious received a perfect stalking trip behind the leader, Dade Babe, the 33-1 longshot who took a huge lead on the field of eight 3-year-old fillies. Dade Babe was ahead of Harmonious by more than six lengths through a half-mile in :47.17, and still led by three lengths after six furlongs in 1:12.36.
But the field began to close ground on the pacesetter when they approached the quarter-pole, and in one swift move Harmonious easily overtook Dade Babe. She led by 2 1/2 lengths at the eighth-pole with only Evening Jewel, who was skimming the hedge under Victor Espinoza, looming as a threat. But unlike the Del Mar Oaks, it would not be close at the finish.
The final time for 1 1/8 miles on the firm turf was 1:49.14.
French import Zagora rallied late to nip multiple graded stakes winner Evening Jewel by a half-length for runner up under Julien Leparoux. Dade Babe hung on for fourth, one spot ahead of Snow Top Mountain. Check the Label, a winner of four straight graded stakes entering the race, was never a factor while finishing sixth.
“She was galloping along, and I just let her relax, find her stride,” said Rosario, who earned his first stakes victory at Keeneland. “Turning for home, I had a lot of horse. When I asked her, she tried to get in a little bit. I hit her left handed and she tried to get out a little bit. But she was fine. She did the job really easy.”
Harmonious, who is based at Hollywood for Shirreffs, upped her earnings to $502,420. She is out of the Storm Cat mare Jade Tree.
“She’s really a nice filly, and she has a wonderful stride, which you saw,” said Shirreffs, who would not say if his charge would move on to the Breeders’ Cup. “She can utilize that. It’s really more about how she’s comfortable in the race. She hit that nice big stride. At that point, there’s no sense fighting and trying to take her back.”
Sent off as the 5-2 favorite, Harmonious paid $7, $4.40, and $2.80. The exacta (6-1) returned $35.40 and the trifecta (6-1-3) was worth $123.