10/03/2003 12:00AM

House Party, 'Harmony' look sharp


ELMONT, N.Y. - Grade 1 winners Harmony Lodge and House Party are standouts in Sunday's Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park.

Six fillies and mares were entered in the $150,000 Gallant Bloom, a 6 1/2-furlong dirt race, which also drew Slews Final Answer, Alchemilla, Belle Artistic, and Literary Light.

Harmony Lodge scored her first Grade 1 win in her last start, the Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 24. She beat the favorite, Shine Again, by a nose. Harmony Lodge carried 115 pounds in the Ballerina and picks up two more in the Gallant Bloom, where she is the highweight.

In the seven-furlong Ballerina, Harmony Lodge, who was ridden by Richard Migliore, set the pace from her outside post in the eight-horse field.

"Before the race, [Migliore] and I discussed that having an outside post was an advantage for her to steal away to an easy first quarter in 22 and change - which, for her, is easy," said Todd Pletcher, Harmony Lodge's trainer. "That was the key to the win. She's a fast filly, and the post position can be important."

Harmony Lodge drew post 2, and Migliore will ride.

Literary Light, in post 5, has early speed and figures to dog Harmony Lodge early.

Allen Jerkens, House Party's trainer, would be delighted if a speed duel developed in front of his filly, who carries 116 pounds.

"She needs a fast pace up front," said Jerkens, who won the 1995 Gallant Bloom with Classy Mirage.

House Party, the only 3-year-old in the field, closed into a fast pace against older fillies to win the Grade 3 Endine at Delaware Park and tie the track record on Sept. 6. At Belmont in July, she came from the back of the pack to win the Grade 1 Prioress.

Jerkens said House Party has exceeded his expectations. "I thought she was okay," he said. "I didn't think she was this good."

Jose Santos, who won last year's Gallant Bloom aboard Nasty Storm, drew post 6.

Not much separates the rest of the field. Slews Final Answer is 2 for 2 at the Gallant Bloom distance.

Alchemilla, who won an overnight stakes in the slop on Belmont Stakes Day, was vanned off the track after she finished third in a Saratoga allowance race. Shug McGaughey, Alchemilla's trainer, said he could find nothing wrong with the filly.

Literary Light is consistent, but not in the same league as Harmony Lodge and House Party. Belle Artiste is 1 for 9 this year.