Harmonize gets up in frenetic finish to Del Mar Oaks

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August 21st, 2016

Larkin Armstrong’s Harmonize hasn’t had much luck back East of late, but a journey westward did the trick as she prevailed in Saturday’s $301,725 Del Mar Oaks (G1). Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and well handled by Junior Alvarado, the 7-2 chance scythed through the field and just edged fellow closer Decked Out in a power-packed finish.

The top two were coming off unplaced efforts in the July 9 Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) behind Catch a Glimpse and Time and Motion (who meet again in Sunday’s Lake Placid [G2] at Saratoga). Harmonize was a wide-trip fifth, and Decked Out was ninth.

But previously, Harmonize had come a lot closer to both Catch a Glimpse and Time and Motion. In the May 6 Edgewood (G3) on Kentucky Oaks Day, a stumbling start ruined her win chance, but she was a fast-gaining third. Next time at Belmont Park, Harmonize struck the front in the June 5 Wonder Again, only to be nailed by Time and Motion.

And last season, Harmonize had looked like a very promising turf juvenile. She broke her maiden by four resounding lengths in the P.G. Johnson at the Spa, and came from the clouds to get up in the Jessamine (G3) at Keeneland. She couldn’t duplicate that effort when seventh to Catch a Glimpse in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), but got back on track with a victorious reappearance (despite a checkered passage) in the March 26 Sanibel Island at Gulfstream.

All of which is to say that Harmonize was due for a major score at some point, and the Del Mar Oaks was her platform. As Lady Valeur hustled to the early lead, Harmonize was settled into a comfortable rhythm in the latter part of the field. Decked Out was an even more leisurely last.

Stays in Vegas, who stalked Lady Valeur through splits of :23.43, :47.87, and 1:12.69, made her move on the far turn and spurted away into the stretch. The rail-hugging Mokat, the 3-1 favorite, angled out for room, but didn’t make an immediate impression on the new leader.

Although Harmonize had to be driven turning for home, it was just a case of getting stoked up in plenty of time. Down the lane, she found a giant gap and took off. Wider out, Decked Out was in high gear herself, and the pair rapidly erased their deficit. Mokat was finally grinding her way forward too, if not as decisively.

As Stays in Vegas desperately looked for the wire, the outside fillies nabbed her in the nick of time. Harmonize got there first by a head, with Decked Out nipping Stays in Vegas by a nose. Mokat was another half-length adrift in fourth. Tin Type Gal closed for fifth, followed by Barleysugar, Mines and Magic, Cheekaboo, Lady Valeur, and Lynne’s Legacy. Mrs. Norris was scratched.

Harmonize’s Grade 1 coup advanced her mark to 9-4-2-1, $484,260. Yet another major winner sired by Scat Daddy, who died far too young last December, the $80,000 Keeneland September yearling is out of the unraced Sky Mesa mare Mesa Fresca, from the superb family of Al Khali, Serra Lake, Keen Ice, Somali Lemonade, and Verrazano.

Harmonize photo courtesy of Cecilia Gustavsson/