08/23/2003 11:00PM

Longshot Harmony Lodge wins Ballerina

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Todd Pletcher believes Harmony Lodge has run well enough at times in career to win a Grade 1 race. Sunday, she finally did.

Under a hustling ride from jockey Richard Migliore, Harmony Lodge won an early pace duel with Stellar and Gold Mover then held off a hard-charging Shine Again to win the Grade 1, $250,000 Ballerina Handicap by a nose before 27,205 at Saratoga. Shine Again, the two-time defending Ballerina winner, finished two lengths ahead of Gold Mover.

Sent off the longest shot on the board at 12-1, Harmony Lodge returned $27.80 to win.

Breaking from the outside post in the eight-horse field, Harmony Lodge battled with Stellar and Gold Mover through an opening quarter in 22.70 seconds and a half-mile run in 45.06. She cut the corner neatly turning for home and opened up a 1 1-2-length lead at the eighth pole before beginning to tire. Still, she had enough left to hold off Shine Again, who rallied four wide in the stretch under Jose Santos. Harmony Lodge, a 5-year-old daughter of Hennessy, covered seven furlongs in 1:22.23.

"The first quarter kind of saved her for the last sixteenth," Migliore said. "I felt real confident when I let out a notch heading into the turn. I felt great about everything until 70 yards out and [Shine Again] was looming large. I hadn't gone to the stick yet on my filly. Finally, I went at her late hoping I'd get some surge and she gave me a little bit of a response and it was enough to hold on."

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who recorded his meet-leading 33rd victory, said the outside post was also key considering Harmony Lodge had drawn inside in four of her last five starts.

"Huge edge," Pletcher said. "She's drawn inside so many times and I think that really compromised her chances. When you're on the outside you can dictate your pace as opposed to have someone outside of you dictate it to you so it was the perfect set up."

Harmony Lodge, a $1.65 million 2-year-old-in-training purchase, has now won 8 of 17 career starts and earned $585,128 for owner Eugene Melnyk. Harmony Lodge is a half-brother to Jim Dandy winner Graeme Hall, who Melnyk stands at Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Fla.