08/12/2011 2:44PM

Del Mar: Harmonious needs her best shot in John Mabee

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DEL MAR, Calif. – Harmonious needed a break in February after she finished a well-beaten third in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita. Harmonious needs a win in Sunday’s $250,000 John Mabee Stakes at Del Mar to confirm her status among the nation’s leading turf females.

A 4-year-old owned by Marty Wygod and his family, Harmonious had nearly five months between the La Canada and a game second to Celtic Princess in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine Stakes over a mile on turf at Hollywood Park on July 13.

Friday, trainer John Shirreffs said that Harmonious emerged from the Royal Heroine in outstanding condition, with the hope that she can win the Grade 2 John Mabee, which is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

“She’s done her job,” Shirreffs said. “We wanted to get a race in. I thought she did very well in the race at Hollywood, for a mile. If she improves off that race, she’ll be very good.”

Harmonious must be at her best. The Mabee has drawn a strong field of eight, all graded stakes winners. Wasted Tears, the Texas-based defending champion, is back. Celtic Princess is a threat on the lead, but most sustain late threats from the 2011 graded stakes winner Cozi Rosie, and Malibu Pier and the 2010 stakes winners Go Forth North, Medaglia d’Amour and Turning Top.

“They don’t get easy,” Shirreffs said of the competition.

The distance works in the favor of Harmonious, who won two Grade 1 turf races in 2010 – the American Oaks over 1 1/4 miles and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup over 1 1/8 miles.

“I think anything from a mile and an eighth and up suits her,” Shirreffs said. “She’s got that nice long stride, a real galloper.”

Celtic Princess, who led throughout the Royal Heroine, and Wasted Tears, who races near the front, will dispute the pace. How quickly they run the first half-mile will determine whether they can dominate, or help the chances of the closers.

Celtic Princess is in need of a start, trainer A.C. Avila said on Thursday.

“She’s a freak,” Avila said. “She wants to eat the track. My boy can’t control her.

Avila said a half-mile split time of 47 seconds would result in Celtic Princess leading. “She breaks and she’s all business,” Avila said. “If they go 46, she’ll be second or third. If they go in 47, she’ll be on the lead.”

Wasted Tears won the 2010 Mabee by a nose and has since had one win in four starts, the Grade 3 Ouija Board Stakes at Lone Star Park in May. She was fifth as the even-money favorite in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap over 1 3/16 miles on turf at Arlington Park in July.

“I don’t think she has to have it,” owner-trainer Bart Evans said of Wasted Tears setting the pace.

“The whole thing with this filly is you have to do things her way. You don’t change things around. I like the she way she’s doing things.”

Evans said that Wasted Tears has thrived since arriving in California from scorching Texas last weekend.

“I’m not sure if I came out here for her to run or for me to get out of the heat,” Evans said.

Take that as an example of Evans’s wry sense of humor. Wasted Tears, he says, is ready for the Mabee.