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Cold Winter Memories

“It’s Saratoga,” trainer Jimmy Toner lamented. “The graveyard of favorites.”
Toner would know. A few minutes prior to that utterance, his was buried.
Winter Memories, a 3-year-old El Prado filly who had been so brilliant in her first three 2011 starts (all graded stakes, and all victories), came up short in Sunday’s Lake Placid Stakes (G2), finishing a disappointing fourth.
The winner was Hungry Island, who handled the step up to graded company with an impressive 2½ length score. She came from last place to do it, behind fractions that could be considered modest, at best, even taking the yielding going into account. Bellamy Star set a dawdling opening pace, going 26:4 for the opening quarter mile, and 51:0 for the opening half.
Hungry Island had no trouble overcoming dynamics that didn’t appear to play into her favor, as she quickly closed into the soft fractions, asserting full command of the proceedings by the time the field hit the sixteenth pole.
“I think this is a good filly,” said trainer Shug McGaughey of Hungry Island. “She’s done everything we wanted her to do this year.”
But with due respect to Hungry Island and her venerable trainer, the story was Winter Memories, and her troubled journey around Saratoga’s Mellon turf course.
Winter Memories began her problematic lap underneath jockey Jose Lezcano about five lengths off the pace. But she was trapped in between horses going around the first turn. Some horses can handle that position. According to Toner, Winter Memories is not one of them.
“She was trapped in,“ Toner observed. “She just doesn’t like to be between horses.”
She remained trapped in between Dynamic Holiday and Trac N Jam until the latter dropped out of the race with approximately a half mile remaining. Lezcano, at this point, decided to make his move. He looked to move off of the rail and make a run on the outside. But Dynamic Holiday, and, more specifically, jockey Ramon Dominguez, refused to allow Winter Memories to get in the clear. He kept Winter Memories pinned as they turned for home.
This forced Lezcano to look elsewhere for racing room. He first tried to find a seam down the center. But tiring pacesetter Bellamy Star impeded his progress in that lane. So he was forced to bring Winter Memories back to the rail. By then, she was being inhaled by Hungry Island, who had enjoyed a comparatively stress-free trip. Kathmanblu got the place. And Winter Memories’ nemesis on this day, Dynamic Holiday, outfinished her for the show.
Lezcano, for his part, chose not to blame the trip for Winter Memories’ defeat, choosing instead to chalk up the loss to the filly’s distaste for the course condition.
“I don’t think she liked [the ground],” Lezcano said simply.
Toner passed along Lezcano’s sentiments before noting that soft ground hadn’t been a problem for Winter Memories in the past.
“She won the Miss Grillo on soft ground,” Toner noted. “There are no excuses.”
Such a comment would seem to indicate that Lezcano might well have ridden Winter Memories for the last time.
Still, Toner refused to let himself get down over the loss.
“When you win, you win; when you lose, you lose.”
This philosophy does not exactly conjure up thoughts of Plato and Sophocles. Nor, frankly, does it reflect the gravity of this defeat.
It was a stunner.
Photo Courtesy of Adam Coglianese/NYRA


What the Nation is saying about Cold Winter Memories...

Still think Winter Memories is a top quality turfer, but Hungry Island is in full blossom.
Shug is very high on her.
All the attention is on Memories, but Hungry Island ran a great race too. Closing into a s-l-ow pace is not easy, but she did it easily. She may be one to watch.
It is VERY possiblle that rapidly-improving Hungry Island IS the better horse, period. Strange no one even mentions that. Has anyone looked at HI's PPs for her last couple of wins?
Could of been many reasons for the out-come. She had room late but no kick. I believe, without a doubt, she's the most talented turf filly in America, she's not a machine. She'll bounce back strong
She shall return!
Joe, have fun at the Spa.
Reluctant to blame the jockey, but, in this case, it looked like he gave her no chance by keeping her stuck in the midde of the pack. Have to ask why he didn't steer her to the outside. She certainly has the turn of foot to handle that. She was totally stopped down in her Lake George and yet she lost hardly a step, went around and headed for home, winning going away. If it were my horse, I would start looking for the likes of Martin Garcia or Garrett Gomez. WM deserved a better ride. Really admire her connections, though, totally first rate, in sharp contrast to the recent bitter aftermath of the Delaware.


 Meet Joe DePaolo

My love of horse racing dates back to the 1999 Belmont Stakes, where I was fortunate enough to witness Chris Antley's heroics in saving the life of Charismatic from just yards away. Since then, my passion for the sport has only grown, to the point where it fueled my desire to be involved on a professional basis.
A product of Queens College and the world-renowned Bronx High School of Science, I've spent the past few years producing news talk radio on the national level. Most notably, I have worked with; Ron Reagan, Arianna Huffington, and Thom Hartmann.
In 2010, I teamed with heralded freelance writer Claire Novak to host the popular "Youbet: On Track" podcast. Together, Claire and I chronicled the Saratoga 2010 meeting daily, covering everything from Blame's thrilling conquest of the Whitney, to Rachel Alexandra's stunning defeat in the Personal Ensign. Our weekly "Backside Buzz" segment, in particular, earned great acclaim from many in the racing community.
I currently live in Bayside, New York. Contact me at jdepaolo85@gmail.com if you have any comments or questions.