Gem, Inc.'s HARISSA (Afleet Alex), a Southern California-based filly, rolled to a 3 1/2-length triumph in her dirt debut in Sunday's $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks.
Harissa hounded the pacesetting Hayley's Halo (Sea of Secrets), who carved out splits of :23 2/5, :46 3/5 and 1:11 1/5. The pair dueled in earnest from the far turn until midstretch, when Harissa began to get the upper hand. Once Tyler Baze got her to switch leads, the David Hofmans pupil cleared away to win in a final time of 1:42 4/5 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast track. The co-second choice at 5-2 paid $6.80, $3.60 and $2.60.
Hayley's Halo had 2 3/4 lengths to spare over 8-5 favorite Queen Greeley (Mr. Greeley), who was 14 1/2 lengths ahead of fourth-placer Tornado Betty (Comic Strip). Pyrite on My Mind (Seattle Fitz [Arg]) and Ellafitz (Tiznow) rounded out the order of finish.
Harissa, who was fourth in the Santa Ysabel S. (G3) in her only previous stakes attempt, now sports a mark of 7-2-2-1, $174,520. Since that January 10 event, the bay has finished runner-up twice in allowance/optional claiming company at Santa Anita. Run down late by Cozi Rosie (Pleasantly Perfect) on February 4, Harissa was most recently a troubled second to Ellafitz on March 4.
Bred by Jeanne Bruce in Kentucky, Harissa brought $95,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, then failed to reach her reserve when attracting a $195,000 bid as a Barretts Msrch two-year-old. She is out of stakes winner and multiple Grade 3-placed Dynasty (Time for a Change), and notable family members include 1997 Derby (Eng-G1) hero, Benny the Dip (Silver Hawk).