12/30/2010 2:56PM

Harmonious looks hard to beat in Robert Frankel Stakes

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Benoit & Associates
Harmonious, winner of the American Oaks in July, would prefer firm turf for Saturday's Robert Frankel Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Harmonious won two Grade 1 stakes on turf for 3-year-old fillies in 2010, earning a reputation as one of the top members of her generation. Expect her to solidify that status in a small field in Saturday’s $150,000 Robert Frankel Stakes at Santa Anita.

Harmonious is expected to be a heavy favorite against three rivals in the Grade 2 Frankel Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf. Eclair de Lune, the winner of the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park in August, was entered, but trainer Ron McAnally said on Thursday that she will not run. McAnally cited the absence of recent workouts as the reason.

The Frankel Stakes honors the late Hall of Fame trainer, who died in November 2009. The race was previously known as the San Gorgonio Handicap.

Harmonious has not started since finishing 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, a loss that owner Marty Wygod dismissed because of moisture in the turf and a tough trip.

“I thought she wasn’t getting a hold of it,” Wygod said. “At the head of the stretch, they were bouncing her around pretty good. I think you have to throw that race out.”

Trained by John Shirreffs, Harmonious is proven over the Frankel Stakes distance. She won the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup over 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland in October and won the Grade 1 American Oaks over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hollywood Park last July.

Rain is not expected in Southern California before Saturday’s race, which is good news to Harmonius’s connections.

“I think she’s better when the track is firm,” said jockey Joel Rosario. “It was really wet at Churchill.”

In December, Harmonious had four workouts, including six furlongs in 1:16 on Christmas Eve. Wygod said she may not be 100 percent fit, but he expects her to run well.

Without Eclair de Lune in the field, Harmonious is a standout against Go Forth North, Powerofvoodoo, and Spring Style.

McAnally said the poor weather in California over the last few weeks has prevented him from working Eclair de Lune. He decided that Eclair de Lune would skip the Frankel after talking with owner Richard Duchossois.

“She hasn’t worked in three weeks,” McAnally said. “I decided to enter, but I called Dick and he said, ‘If you don’t think she’s fit, you don’t have to run her.’ ”

The absence of Eclair de Lune will have an effect on tactics in the race. Eclair de Lune would have raced near the front. With her out of the field, Spring Style, who is seeking her first stakes win, will be near the front and may lead.

“Can we get Harmonious out?” said Ben Cecil, who trains Spring Style.

“I hope we can be placed,” he said, laughing. “She’s well within herself, but you’ve got Harmonious and [Go Forth North]. I think Harmonious is the horse to beat. It’s a small field, but that can be a trappy race. A win would be a nice way to start the year.”

Go Forth North, who won the Grade 3 Harold Ramser Handicap in October and was third in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes, is not fully fit, trainer A.C. Avila warned.

“I missed some workouts with her,” Avila said. “You have to take a chance. My only concern is I don’t think she’s fit as she was [when she won the Ramser]. I’d say she’s 80 percent.”

Powerofvoodoo, eighth in a $25,000 claimer for statebreds on Monday, was supplemented for $3,000 on Wednesday. The Frankel is her 59th career start.

“Obviously, she’s not that good, but if she gets third, she would be worth more,” owner-trainer Barry Abrams said. “It’s worth a shot.”