05/30/2008 12:00AM

Golden Dome having heck of a good run


It paid to keep an open mind in handicapping Monmouth Park's Memorial Day feature, the Open Mind Handicap for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares.

The race looked to be a toss-up between two of last year's New Jersey-bred champions: the reigning horse of the year and champion 3-year-old filly, Talkin About Love, making her first start of 2008 for owner-breeder-trainer Kevin Sleeter, and Patricia Generazio's homebred Pure Disco, who is in the running for another handicap mare title.

Instead, it was a breakout performance for a lightly raced 4-year-old filly named Heckuva Good Time, who surged to a 1 3/4-length victory in a speedy six-furlong time of 1:09.73, paying $9 to win.

Getting a huge break in the weights, Heckuva Good Time carried 113 pounds, nine fewer than the runner-up, Pure Disco, and a dozen pounds below the burden of highweighted Talkin About Love, who finished third as the 1.30-1 favorite.

Heckuva Good Time, trained by Mark Shuman at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, campaigns as a homebred for Golden Dome Stable, the racing and breeding enterprise of Robert H. Harris and his son, Robert M. Harris.

The Harrises own and operate Harris FRC Corp., a pharmaceutical consulting and drug development firm in Holmdel, N.J. The elder Harris, who holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Rutgers University, named the stable for the famous landmark at his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Notre Dame.

The Harrises, who have been involved in the Thoroughbred business for about 15 years, enjoyed their best racing success to date with Spruce Run, a gelding by Repriced. Purchased as a yearling for $52,000 at the 1999 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale, Spruce Run won or placed in 16 stakes (with two graded wins) over six seasons and earned $554,403.

Seven years after they ventured into the breeding end of the game, that phase of the Harrises' operation has also begun to take off.

Golden Dome bred Love for Not, last year's champion New Jersey-bred 2-year-old filly, who won 3 of 4 starts, including the Maryland Million Lassie and the fillies division of the New Jersey Futurity for Kathleen Willier, who bought her for $60,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale.

Love for Not, also trained by Sleeter, was one of two 2008 New Jersey-bred champions to represent leading Maryland sire Not for Love (the other being Talkin About Love).

Heckuva Good Time (by Afternoon Deelites) has the kind of lineage that makes pedigree watchers stop and take a second look. She is the second foal Golden Dome has bred from the Gilded Time mare Heckuva Time, whom the Harrises purchased for $31,000 at the 2001 Adena Springs November sale.

Afternoon Deelites, a son of Private Terms, and Heckuva Time each trace two generations back, on their dams' sides, to full brothers Medaille d'Or and D'Accord (sons of Secretariat and Canadian champion Fanfreluche). In addition, both are third-generation tail-male descendants of Damascus.

Inbreeding several generations back is a frequent practice for Golden Dome, said the younger Harris, who manages the operation. "We try to reinforce the classic bloodlines," he said.

Heckuva Good Time did her ancestors proud in her very first start, with a front-running eight-length score in maiden special weight company at Monmouth Park in June of her 2-year-old season. But it took a long time for her to build on that form. She was well beaten in two additional starts in 2006, including Monmouth's Colleen Stakes, then was sidelined with a back injury.

Last year at 3, Heckuva Good Time made only one start, finishing second in an allowance race at Monmouth in June.

This year, it has been a different story. Heckuva Good Time finished a close third, beaten a head, in her season debut, an allowance race at Philadelphia Park on April 1, then won a six-furlong allowance over a sloppy track at Monmouth on May 9. The Open Mind Handicap was her third outing of the season.

In seven career starts, Heckuva Good Time has earned $112,400.

"If all goes well, we are targeting the Goldfinch Handicap on July 19 at Monmouth for her next start," said Robert M. Harris.

Heckuva Good Time's dam is one of six broodmares owned by Golden Dome. All are boarded at Christine Connelly's Bright View Farm in Columbus, N.J.

Heckuva Time has a 2-year-old Defrere colt whom the Harrises hope to bring to the races at Monmouth this summer. She produced a Rahy colt this spring and is in foal to Lion Hearted.

Love for Not's dam, Go Nicholas Go (by Polish Numbers), was barren for 2008 but is carrying a full sibling to Love for Not.