01/11/2004 12:00AM

Harmony Lodge is the first lady again

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Harmony Lodge successfully defends her title in the $100,000 The First Lady Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Sunday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Harmony Lodge successfully defended her title in the $100,000 with a 1 3/4 length victory over House Party at a blustery Gulfstream Park on Sunday. The final margin was exactly the same as when she defeated Fly Me Crazy to capture the 2003 The First Lady.

With regular rider Richard Migliore down from New York for the assignment, Harmony Lodge rated off the pace of Holy Bubbette and Follow Home over a racetrack which hampered speed horses all afternoon. She moved three wide to challenge for the lead approaching the quarter pole, drew clear in early stretch then maintained a safe advantage under steady urging.

House Party, who was beaten a half-length by Harmony Lodge in the pair's only previous meeting in the Gallant Bloom Handicap(G2), broke slow from post position one under Jose Santos. House Party lagged well behind the field down the backstretch, rallied six-wide entering the stretch but could not gain appreciably on the winner through the final furlong. Mayo On The Side finished best of all to be third.

Harmony Lodge went postward the 8-5 co-choice along with House Party and paid $5.20. Her time of 1:09.64 for six furlongs was .60 faster than she covered the distance winning the race last winter.

"I discussed the race with Richie this morning and we knew we would be one of the speed horses and went in with the idea not to be in a speed duel," said Pletcher who trains Harmony Lodge for Eugene and Laura Melnyk. "When she didn't break real sharp Richie was able to get her back off the leaders and everything worked out well."

Pletcher said he will likely run Harmony Lodge back in the Shirley Jones Handicap, a race she also won last year, and if all went well then consider sending her to Dubai to face males in the $2 million Dubai Sprint.

Harmony Lodge's victory was her third in as many starts with Migliore aboard and his second graded stakes winner of the meet. The New York based rider also won the Grade 3 Appleton Handicap aboard Millennium Dragon last Sunday.

"It's nice to be able to come down here on weekends and win races like these," said Migliore. "I had a good trip today. The two horses on the lead got out there and kind of blocked the wind for me and I had a lot of horse under me."