Updated on 09/16/2011 9:24AM

Harmony Lodge: Fresh and fit again

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ELMONT, N.Y. - A lot was expected of Harmony Lodge from the day owner Eugene Melnyk plunked down $1.65 million for her at the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old-in-training sales in February 2000.

After some mixed results, Harmony Lodge may finally be ready to fulfill those expectations beginning Sunday, when she takes on Grade 1 winners Raging Fever and Shine Again in the Grade 2, $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park. A field of six was entered for the Gallant Bloom, run at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Melnyk's money looked well spent on Aug. 13, 2000, when Harmony Lodge won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race at Saratoga. A fever sidelined her the remainder of the year, and she didn't race again until the following April. Harmony Lodge showed promise early in her 3-year-old career, winning the Little Silver Stakes at Monmouth and finishing third in the Grade 1 Prioress.

Dismal efforts in the Test and Egret Stakes prompted trainer Todd Pletcher to put her away for a freshening.

"It was not anything specific," Pletcher said. "She fell off form and was very tired. She had some skin disease, too. Her whole system was knocked out. We sent her to the farm, and she had a couple of minor setbacks when we tried to bring her back."

What was meant to be a 60-day break, said Pletcher, "turned out to be a whole lot more."

Harmony Lodge returned in a third-level allowance on Aug. 29 at Saratoga, where she splashed her way through the slop to a front-running 11-length victory over odds-on favorite Spring Meadow.

"I think she fits with the top sprinting fillies around when she's on her game and she seems to be doing real well right now," Pletcher said. "She's a fresh horse at the right time of the year."

Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Harmony Lodge, because her regular rider, John Velazquez, is also the regular pilot of Raging Fever.

Raging Fever and Shine Again return to a sprint following an unsuccessful stretch-out in last month's Ruffian Handicap. In that race, Raging Fever faded to last after dueling through a half-mile in 45.25 seconds. Shine Again made only a mild bid while being defeated by 4 3/4 lengths. As the 120-pound highweight, Raging Fever concedes two to 10 pounds to the field.

Shine Again defeated Raging Fever by one-half length in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga last month. Her stalking style may serve her well if Raging Fever and Harmony Lodge hook up early.

Belle Artiste is another who would benefit from a sizzling pace but must prove she is classy enough to run with these. Nasty Storm, a multiple stakes winner in Kentucky, and Saskya complete the field.

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