Harmonize hits winning note in Jessamine
In the process, the Larkin Armstrong colorbearer earned her shot at Breeders’ Cup glory via the “Win & You’re In” Challenge series. The Jessamine was the final race on this year’s schedule of events and gives Harmonize a guaranteed berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) on October 30 over the self-same Keeneland turf.
Harmonize gained a lot of experience in the Jessamine with her rear-running trip under jockey Junior Alvarado. The Bill Mott pupil previously was on or just behind the lead when a nose second in her career debut and a four-length winner of the P.G. Johnson S. last out on September 3.
On Wednesday, however, the bay filly found herself running near the rear of the 14-strong field while wide throughout. Up front, 139-1 shot Carleigh Belle opened up by as much as four lengths down the backstretch while setting splits of :22.44, :47.02 and 1:13.51.
Harmonize began picking off runners nearing the turn but was still widest of all and ended up circling the entire field eight wide to enter the stretch. Sapphire Kitten, who had raced in midpack, was also beginning her move about five wide, and the duo hooked up in midstretch.
Harmonize’s sudden appearance from last made it seem like she would blow right on by, but Sapphire Kitten dug in and refused to yield to the even-money favorite despite running on her wrong lead. That may have cost her the race as Harmonize finally inched away in the shadow of the wire to stop the clock in 1:44.19 for 1 1/16 miles over the firm Keeneland turf.
Harmonize won’t have as far to go in the one-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf but might be facing Sapphire Kitten again.
Outsider Art finished third well, behind Harmonize and Sapphire Kitten – 4 1/2 lengths to be precise – while three parts of a length up on 6-1 second choice Lilly’s Dream, who just managed to nose out Family Tree to complete the superfecta.
Harmonize photo courtesy of Keeneland/Coady Photography
Bill Mott (winning trainer of Harmonize)
On whether Harmonize is good enough to advance to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
“I think so. It’s nice to see that she’s versatile enough to come from back in the pack like she did. She struggled with ground early and once she got down the backside, she got a little better, a little better. When (jockey Junior Alvarado) turned for home, she turned on the after-burners and was good enough to run them down.
“I thought we could be laying third or fourth in the race. There looked like there were two obvious speed horses. I thought we would be laying right behind them. It didn’t work out that way, but I’m glad the filly took care of it.”
Junior Alvarado (winning rider)
On whether he intended to have her so far off the pace
“Not really. She wasn’t getting hold of the track the first part of the race. I didn’t want to get after her too early; I wanted to let her get comfortable and let her pick up ground. By the end, she was much the best.”
Joe Sharp (trainer of runner-up Sapphire Kitten)
“We were really pleased with the race. It was her first time around two turns and the winner had already been around two turns. We were impressed with the way our filly was passed at the eighth pole and battled back inside. Hopefully, that was enough to get us in the Breeders’ Cup because I think we have a legitimate contender. She definitely moved forward today.”
Julien Leparoux (rider of Sapphire Kitten)
“We had a good trip. The winner is a very nice filly. My filly ran a huge race and fought back at the end. She’s a very nice filly too. (This race was her) first time around two turns today so she should get a lot out of this race for sure.”
Drayden Van Dyke (rider of third-place finisher Outsider Art)
“We were out in the 14 hole. She kind of sucked back at the break. I was going to try to get her in a good spot. But they went fast anyway so it worked out good. I would’ve liked to have covered her up more and saved a little more ground. She showed a good effort going against these horses. I’m very happy with our finish.”