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HRN Original Blog:
Summer At The Spa

Making More Memories

“She’s incredible.”
 
The Belmont railbirds would no doubt agree with this assessment from trainer Jimmy Toner.
 
She is incredible.
 
For the third time in three stakes tries on the Belmont lawn, the outstanding 3-year-old filly Winter Memories proved victorious. Though today’s neck margin pales in comparison to the combined 8¼ lengths by which she captured the first two, it might well have been the most impressive of the troika.
 
How can she possibly top this one?
 
*****
“I thought we had it all the way.”
 
This quote from Toner in the moments immediately following the race elicited a chuckle from normally stoic NYRA on-air personality Eric Donovan, and for good reason. Toner chuckled too, in recognition of the joke. In order to have been serious about the remark, he would’ve had to be the most confident man in the world (a title that is impossible to bestow on Toner. He wasn’t even the most confident man in the building, given the presence of owner Mike Repole, who was in the Belmont winner’s circle a half hour later with 2-year-old Our Entourage.) Surely even Repole would’ve had a moment of doubt during the stretch run of Saturday’s Garden City (G1). It looked for all the world like she was not going to get there.
 
The trouble-prone El Prado filly found herself in a tough spot once again on this day. Her trip in the Garden City was eerily similar to the one she received in her last outing in the Lake Placid (G2) at Saratoga. Toner switched pilots after the rocky trip that day, with Javier Castellano taking over the duties from Jose Lezcano. Toner was nonplussed about the fact that Winter Memories was in between horses most of the way around in the Lake Placid.
 
One can only imagine what he was thinking as he watched the Garden City unfold, because Winter Memories was faced with the exact same predicament. Castellano appeared to have trouble making up his mind about what to do with his mount as the field made their way towards the far turn. Should he take Winter Memories back to the rear of the field, or try to put her into the race, perhaps a little earlier than he wanted to? His indecision left Winter Memories, once again, in between horses most of the way around the track.
 
As they hit the top of the stretch, a bad situation got that much worse for Winter Memories. She was in behind a wall of horses And it looked, for the longest time, as though she wouldn’t be able to find a way through.
 
“When they turned into the lane, it was the same scenario,” Toner said. “She was blocked all over again. She had no place to go. I knew there was no chance to get inside or split horses; they were all bunched. I didn’t think she had a chance.”
 
Sure enough, though, the rider switch paid off. As, unlike Lezcano in the Lake Placid, who unsuccessfully dove to the rail when faced with a similar predicament, Castellano waited until he was able to tip Winter Memories to the outside. Once she got clear running, she came through the lane like a freight train.
 
“When everybody started to move, I had a chance to mover her aside and let her find her kick,” Castellano said.
 
“She has a wonderful kick,” he added - a remark that must surely be in the running for understatement of the year.
 
Winter Memories got up several strides before the wire to defeat European shipper Theyskens’ Theory by a neck. She completed the mile and an eighth in 1:51.06. Amazingly enough, it didn’t even seem as though Castellano ever fully asked the filly.
 
“Javier never panicked,” Toner observed.
 
He didn’t need to. He knew he was sitting on the goods.
 
*****
 
Winter Memories has been one of the bright spots on this circuit throughout the year. Her appearance in the Garden City will be the last time she races on it this season. For the moment, according to Toner, Winter Memories is slated to make one more 2011 start, in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland on October 15th.
 
But the Belmont railbirds will be eagerly awaiting her return next season. And next time, they won’t doubt her chances until they hit the line.

 

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Older Comments about Making More Memories...

That burst was eye popping. Very nice to watch. An easy horse to cheer for.
What a freaking horse....This horse should have never lost the Lade Placid. Too much power. I love the look Castellano give Theysken Theory when he was about to pass it. It was like he was saying, sorry I'm going to pass you and there is nothing you can do.
digidot,well her connections know she doesn't fit in the BC this year and are not pointing her there.
Beyers don't mean anything in a race with such a slow pace.
It was a nice win, but don't get too carried away thinking she can beat a real good field of elders and euros. WM got a 93 Beyer for the win.
They are not considering the Breeders Cup?
Great job, Joe! Look forward to hearing more from you.
Would love to know how fast she ran those last few yards once she got loose!
she is showing horse racing fans how to run to the pace, then rip off an 11 second final furlong to pass the pack and get the victory.
Have to get this off my chest: I totally disagree with the commentators at the end of the race where they said it was not the jockey's fault in the Lake Placid, and they were unwilling to give credit to Javier's handling of the race. Early on, Tom Durkin’s call was WM was 3 or 4 lengths from the front, then he noted she had lost a few positions. Javier deliberately slowed her down and dropped her toward the back of the pack...he wasn't going to make the same mistake getting her bottled up in mid-pack as Jose did. I think Javier did a masterful job of not panicking, taking her to the outside and then letting her talent take over. IMHO, Jose (Lezcano) could have done the exact same thing in the Lake Placid race, but instead he chose to keep her mid-pack and it allowed others to control her fate. I give total credit to Javier for this one. And he rewarded her with a hand-ride to the finish. That was just beautiful!
That was such an explosive move by WM! Amazing, maybe we can beat the Euros in the BC.

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 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.