07/03/2010 12:00AM

Harmonius proves she belongs in American Oaks

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INGLEWOOD, Calif.- A few days before Saturday's $250,000 , trainer John Shirreffs questioned whether the race was too much of an "ambitious spot" for Harmonious, who was set to make her stakes debut.

Circumstances the day before the race, and during the first half of the Grade 1 over 1 1/4 miles on turf for 3-year-old fillies, made it seem that Harmonious belonged all along.

First, expected favorite Cozi Rosie was scratched on Friday when she did not train to the satisfaction of trainer John Sadler. When the race began, Harmonious turned out to be ideally placed by jockey Martin Garcia.

While Riviera Chic and Antares World set a quick pace of 23.46 and 47.26 seconds, Harmonious was fourth in a field of seven, racing 11 1/2 lengths behind the leader, and Weekend Magic, who was stalking the front-runners.

Garcia gave Harmonious a patient ride on the turn, overcoming a touch of traffic before asking his filly to quicken with a three-wide move. Harmonious was a length behind Antares World with a furlong remaining, and won by 1 1/4 lengths. Weekend Magic, at 59-1 the longest shot in the field, finished third, followed by Andina, 2-1 favorite City to City, Conniption, and Riviera Chic.

Harmonious ($7), the third choice in the betting, was timed in 2:01.77.

"It was great that they opened up like that," Shirreffs said of the pacesetters. Harmonious "was really relaxed."

Antares World, a two-time stakes winner in Northern California, ran arguably too well to lose. She was a contender until the final sixteenth under jockey Frank Alvarado.

"I thought she ran her heart out," trainer Steve Specht said. "She just keeps charging along. Frank had a little trouble getting her to settle. She showed what she can do today."

Harmonious won her third consecutive race in the Grade 1 American Oaks, a field comprised of locally-based fillies. In past years, the race has drawn shippers from Europe, Japan, and other parts of the nation, but with a purse cut from $700,000 last year there were no shippers.

Owned by Marty, Pam and Emily Wygod, Harmonious is unbeaten on turf. After finishing fifth in her debut over 6 1/2 furlongs here on April 25, she beat maidens in a one-mile turf race on May 16 and won a first-condition allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf on June 12. By Dynaformer, Harmonious has earned $202,420.

The absence of Cozi Rosie enhanced Harmonious's chances, Shirreffs said.

"It definitely helped that she wasn't in the race," Shirreffs said. "She had the experience and the credentials."

Marty Wygod is a member of the Del Mar board of directors, and Harmonious could make her next start in the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Aug. 21.