07/04/2011 8:54PM

Hollywood Park: Celtic Princess is Royal Heroine victor

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Benoit & Associates
Celtic Princess, with Rafael Bejarano riding, wins the Royal Heroine.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Celtic Princess won her first graded stakes in the United States in Monday's $150,000 Royal Heroine Stakes at Hollywood Park, a race that left owner Luiz Fernando Dannemann and trainer A.C. Avila hoping for bigger accomplishments later this summer and fall.

Celtic Princess won the Grade 2 Royal Heroine Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths over Harmonious, a two-time Grade 1 winner last year. Andina finished third in the field of six.

Celtic Princess was second in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes here on May 30, leading nearly throughout, but she did not have the early lead in the Royal Heroine. At the start, Celtic Princess threw her head in the air and was second to the sprint stakes winner Givine for the first six furlongs.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Celtic Princess took the lead in early stretch, led by a head with a furlong remaining, and pulled clear in the final furlong. Harmonious, making her first start since a third-place finish in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita in February, closed from last in the final furlong to finish 1 1/4 lengths in front of Andina, who was followed by Givine, Late Cuddle, and Wild Mia.

Celtic Princess, who was sent off as the favorite, paid $5.40 and ran a mile on turf in 1:33.74.

Avila said he was not concerned that Celtic Princess didn't make the lead, considering she won in Brazil from off the pace.

"On Dec. 30, she won wire to wire, and in her last race she almost won wire to wire," Avila said. "But she can rate. She doesn't have to have the lead."

Avila said that Dannemann made Celtic Princess eligible to the Breeders' Cup program last week with a $25,000 payment, and that the BC Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs in November is a long-term goal. In the short term, Avila said the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 13 is a probable next start.

Harmonious, who won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks and Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last year, will start in the $250,000 John Mabee Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 14.

Trainer John Shirreffs said he was not discouraged that Harmonious was unable to catch Celtic Princess in the Royal Heroine.

"Not with the move she made and the way she responded," Shirreffs said. "I was very happy."