Saturday, September 17, 2011
With seemingly no chance a sixteenth of a mile from the finish, Winter Memories made an electrifying move around a wall of horses to snatch victory in the final strides of the $250,000 Garden City S. (G1) on Sept. 17 at Belmont Park.
This was the first Grade 1 win for the Phillips Racing Partnership homebred, who has a pair of Grade 2 (Sands Point S. and Lake George S.) and Grade 3 (Miss Grillo S. and Appalachian S.) wins to her credit.
The Darby Dan program has now produced two divisional leaders in North America this year, Winter Memories, leading 3-year-old filly on turf, and Tizway, America's leading older male.
In the Garden City, a very slowly run race early, Winter Memories was up close after the break but shuffled back to last down the backstretch through a half-mile in :51.60. After a dawdling six furlongs in 1:16.12, the gray filly was still stuck behind the field. With nowhere to go as the field hit the furlong marker, Javier Castellano, aboard the 3-year-old for the first time, had no choice but to circle the entire group. Winter Memories responded with a lightning-quick rush, swooping by her seven foes in no time, with Castellano never even cocking the whip. She hit the wire a neck in front and got the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.06.
“I didn’t think she had a chance,” said an astounded Jimmy Toner, who trains the daughter of El Prado. “I can’t believe the way she accelerated and exploded, in three strides. Phenomenal. Javier said to me, ‘I knew she was going to win.’ I said, ‘I’m glad you did!’”
“When everybody started to move, I had a chance to move her aside and let her find her kick,” said Castellano. “She has a wonderful kick, and I think that’s what my best advantage is. When I asked her, she took off. I’m very blessed to ride this filly; she’s one of the best fillies in the country.”
Winter Memories earned $150,000 to increase her bankroll to $698,100. She is 6-1-0 in eight lifetime starts.
“When they turned for home, she just was not going to be able to go anywhere and then he finally did get the break to slide to the outside and that was it,” said Darby Dan owner John Phillips. “It’s hard to believe that there was a little more gas left in the tank, but I think there was.”
Toner said next up for Winter Memories will be the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 15.