02/19/2011 6:37PM

Harissa cruises to Fritchie victory

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Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue
Harissa, with Ramon Dominguez up, wins the Barbara Fritchie.

Though her connections view her as a two-turn horse, Harissa displayed the ability to handle one turn just as well, cruising to a 2 1/4-length victory under Ramon Dominguez in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park.

Aspenglow, who had won her last six consecutive races, set the pace but had to settle for second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of longshot Fascinatin' Rhythm. Meese Rocks, Sweet Goodbye, R Betty Graybull, and Kid Kate completed the order of finish.

The victory was the fifth in 13 career starts but first in a graded event for Harissa, a 4-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex owned by John Waken's GEM Racing Inc. and trained by Mike Hushion. Harissa had won three listed or overnight stakes around two turns and was making her first one-turn start since her debut at Del Mar in the summer of 2009.

Breaking from post 2 under Dominguez, Harissa rated in fourth position, several paths off the rail, as Aspenglow, under Travis Dunkelberger, set fractions of 22.44 seconds for the quarter-mile and 45.20 for the half-mile. Harissa went around Meese Rocks and Sweet Goodbye around the far turn and was within two lengths of Aspenglow at the quarter pole.

Responding to three cracks of Dominguez's left-handed whip and four from his right, Harissa glided past Aspenglow inside the sixteenth pole and drew clear for the victory. Harissa covered the seven furlongs in 1:23.65 and returned $5 as the 3-2 favorite.

"Down the backside I realized that Jorge Chavez with [Meese Rocks] wasn't going to the lead, so I thought to myself, 'I don't want to get stuck down on the inside,' " Dominguez said. "I made a decision to move a little early, but she was well within herself and seemed comfortable with where I placed her. She advanced very nicely when I asked and after going by the leader drew off very nicely.'"

The win gave Hushion his second Fritchie victory in three years. He also won this race with Golden Dawn in 2008.

"It was awfully nice wasn't it?" said Hushion, who watched the race in New York. "As usual, Ramon gave her a perfect trip. With that wind over there, you don't know how they're going to react - especially fillies - but she sure stepped up."

Since Hushion also trains the stakes winning sprinter Nicole H for Waken, it is likely that Harissa will be stretched back out in distance for her next start.

"I would lean more to getting back to the two-turn races," Hushion said. "I would think there would be more opportunities for her maybe for bigger money. The owner's got a seven-eighths horse sitting at the barn ready for hopefully the better seven-eighths races."