LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The betting public expected Harmonious to win Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, making her the favorite over the likes of Evening Jewel and Check the Label. But even her most fervent backer would have had difficulty envisioning the ease in which she would take Saturday's race before a crowd of 23,659 at Keeneland.
Showing more speed than in her five previous starts, Harmonious rated in second as Dade Babe set fast splits 23.13 seconds, 47.17 and 1:12.36 in the 1 1/8-mile turf test, and then Harmonious blew away the opposition in the stretch to power to a 4 1/4-length victory over late-running French invader Zagora.
Evening Jewel was a half-length further back in third, and was followed across the wire by Dade Babe, Snow Top Mountain, Check the Label, La Cloche, and Perfect Shirl.
The winner, a 3-year-old daughter of Dynaformer owned and bred by Marty and Pam Wygod, raced 1 1/8 miles on a firm turf course in 1:49.14. She paid $5.
"Turning for home, I had a lot of horse," said winning jockey Joel Rosario. "I asked her and she tried to get in a little bit, and then I hit her left handed and she tried to get out a little bit. But she's fine. She did the job really easy."
Trainer John Shirreffs said her change of style, sitting just off the pace, as opposed to racing from the back of the pack, was not specifically planned. Being a long-striding filly, he said the key was Rosario getting her comfortable, irrespective of placement.
Shirreffs was noncommittal regarding whether Harmonious would race in a few weeks in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs, saying, "That's a discussion we'll have with Mr. Wygod."
Third-place Evening Jewel is also under consideration for the Breeders' Cup, though for another race, with trainer Jim Cassidy mentioning the Ladies' Classic on the Churchill Downs' main track as a possibility.
Evening Jewel ran a close second to Blind Luck at Churchill Downs this spring in the Kentucky Oaks.