07/02/2011 2:19PM

Hollywood Park: Harmonious fresh for Royal Heroine


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Harmonious was the top 3-year-old filly on turf in Southern California last year. After winning the Grade 1 American Oaks and finishing second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, she took that form to Kentucky, winning the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

Outside of her age group, racing was tougher. She finished a troubled 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs last November.

The same race is the main goal for the second half of 2011, a campaign that begins in earnest in Monday’s $200,000 Royal Heroine Mile on turf at Hollywood Park. The Grade 2 Royal Heroine Mile will be Harmonious’s first start since a third in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes on the main train at Santa Anita in February, a loss that left trainer John Shirreffs convinced she needed a vacation.

“She ran hard in the Breeders’ Cup and at Santa Anita, and we had had a good fall,” Shirreffs said. “It was time to give her a good break.”

Owned by Pam, Marty, and Emily Wygod, Harmonious has won 4 of 9 starts and $550,420. The Royal Heroine is shorter than Harmonious’s best trip, which is 1 1/8 miles or farther. By Dynaformer, Harmonious did win her second career start against maidens in a one-mile turf race here in May 2010.

The shorter distance of the Royal Heroine is not a major concern to Shirreffs.

“A mile is a little short, but because she’s fresh she might be a little better,” he said. “Until they run, it’s hard to say. She trains hard and has had a couple of nice five-eighths.”

What is likely to pose a greater threat to Harmonious than the distance is the presence of Celtic Princess, who finished second by a head in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf here on May 30. A Group 1 stakes winner in Brazil in 2007, Celtic Princess has one victory in the United States, an optional claimer over a mile on turf at Santa Anita last December.

There are only six entrants in the Royal Heroine, and Celtic Princess is the lone front-runner. She may be pressured by Givine, who won the Great Lady M. Stakes over six furlongs on turf on May 29. Harmonious is likely to be positioned just behind the leaders for the first half mile, which should give jockey Joel Rosario an advantageous position as the race unfolds.

The field includes Wild Mia and Andina, the first two finishers of the restricted Redondo Beach Stakes on June 5, and Late Cuddle, unraced since finishing seventh in the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap at Santa Anita in February.

A New Zealand-bred, Late Cuddle won 2 of her first 3 starts in the United States last summer and fall, including an allowance race over a mile on turf by 6 1/4 lengths at Del Mar. She needed a break by late winter, according to Dan Ward, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

“She seemed a little flat at Santa Anita,” he said. “She looks better now.”