This Saturday at Keeneland, Winter Memories will try and win the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1), a race her owners, Phillips Racing Partnership, and trainer, James Toner, have been pointing her towards all season long.
If she wins it, the saying “like mother, like daughter” will become reality, as Winter Memories will have won the same race her mother, Memories of Silver, won back in 1996.
Winning the Queen Elizabeth will be no easy matter for Winter Memories, as she will be facing some tough competition in Together (Ire), Summer Soiree, Star Billing, Nereid, Marketing Mix, Kathmanblu and More Than Real.
In addition, Winter Memories is coming off a victory in one of the most impressive wins of her entire career, and that is, sometimes, hard to do as there can be a let down.
That race, the Garden City Stakes (G1) was just a few weeks ago on Saturday, September 17, 2011, at Belmont Park, and she ran in her usual style – coming from behind.
“We don’t plan it this way, believe me,” Toner explained about her coming from behind in a Thoroughbred Times Today article on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2011. “She has a great personality around the stable. She knows who she is, enjoys the attention. She’s the queen and she knows it. That’s they way she handles herself.”
In the Garden City Stakes, Winter Memories, who was the race favorite, broke cleanly out of gate 4, then under a snug hold by her jockey, Javier Castellano, settled into mid-pack for most of the race and followed the early race leader More Than Real.
Then, coming into the final turn, Winter Memories began to fall back as the other horses got in front of her. She fell to sixth, then coming around the turn and into the stretch, she was in eighth place, dead last, with absolutely no where to go.
Coming down the stretch, she looked left and right, trying to find an opening. She was faster than most of the other horses, she just had to find a way clear to prove it.
At mid-stretch, she was still in last place. Then, Castellano spotted an opening to the outside, guided Winter Memories toward it, and the filly did the rest.
She got clear on the outside and then exploded in a powerful burst of speed. Within three strides she was at full-speed with just 70 yards to go to catch race leader More Than Real, and then Theyskiens' Theory, and reach the finish line.
Stride-after-stride, Winter Memories continued to move forward, slowly passing the rest of the horses until just the two leaders were left. Finally, at the wire, she passed Theyskiens' Theory, who had taken over the lead, by just a neck to win the race.
Theyskiens' Theory took second, while More Than Ready faded to third, 1-1/2 lengths behind the second place finisher.
"I didn't have a place to go," Castellano said in a Thoroughbred Times Today article on Sunday, Sept. 18. "I had to sit still and wait for my best moment to go around. I tried to sneak into a couple of holes, but it didn't work out that way. I had to wait a little bit for my opportunity.
"When everybody started to move, I had a chance to move her aside and let her find her kick. She has a wonderful kick, and I think that's what my best advantage is. … I'm very blessed to ride this filly; she's one of the best fillies in the country."
Winter Memories ran the 1-1/8-mile turf race in 1:51.06. More impressive was the fact that she ran the final furlong in :11.29.
With that win, Winter Memories, who is out of El Prado (Ire)-Memories of Silver, by Silver Hawk now has six wins – five of the graded-stakes wins – in eight career starts. She also has one second and $698,100 in earnings.
She also earned herself a starting spot in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. But, according to Toner, the race they all want Winter Memories to run in, and win, is the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland this Saturday. That's the race they've been pointing her towards all year long.
“Our plan all year was to get to the Queen Elizabeth with as good a record as we could, and we have,” Toner said. “That’s been our goal and objective all year. That’s what we’re trying to get done.”
Winter Memories is a tough filly, much like her mother, Memories of Silver, who was a tough, fighting filly herself. Still, according to Toner, there were some differences.
“I think they’re two different types of fillies,” he said in the Tuesday Thoroughbred Times Today. “Memories of Silver was smaller, very quick and was fearless. … This filly (Winter Memories) is a bigger, stronger filly who needs room to run. So that separates them. But, they both have the ability and character to perform at a high level.”
Out of Silver Hawk-All My Memories, by Little Current, Memories of Silver finished her racing career with nine wins in 19 starts, three seconds, five thirds and $1,448,715 in earnings.
At age two and four, she underwent surgery to repair stress fractures in her legs, yet she fought hard to recover and came back to race at age three and four, and win graded stakes races.
In fact, it was in her three-year old season, an year after her first surgery, that she won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1), the same race her daughter will be trying to win this weekend. In addition, at three, she won the Nijana Stakes (G3), the Lake George Stakes and the Matriarch Stakes (G1).
As a four-year old, she won the 1997 Beverly D. Stakes (G1) and the Just a Game Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G3).
After her second surgery, she came back as a five-year old and won the Diana Handicap (G2), the Ballston Spa Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G3) and the Robert G. Dick Memorial Handicap, before being retired.
So now, years later, Winter Memories will come to Keeneland and try to win the same race her mother won in 15 years ago. Her mom won it after leg surgery. Winter Memories will have to win it by not having a let down after her all-out effort in winning her last race.
Like mother, like daughter? We will all find out together on Saturday in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes at Keeneland.
(2nd Photo by Adam Coglianese)