One of the more stunning fillies I have seen up close in many years, Winter Memories, was retired today due to an “uncommon degenerative bone disease.” The surprising news came in this afternoon from the manager of the Galbreath-Phillips Racing Partnership, John Phillips.
“This was a total surprise to everyone concerned,” said Phillips, “Winter Memories had trained flawlessly up to the Diana, raced impressively, and was happy to be back on the track again. She looks and acts great but two days ago her ankles were a little warm despite flexing well, precautionary x-rays were taken and the results were crushing news, The irony is I don’t think I have ever been around a more sound horse.”
The gorgeous gray filly that often left her many fans gasping in excitement with her explosive late runs, has gone out a winner. Her performance in winning the Grade 1 Diana Handicap at Saratoga just ten days ago not only was vintage Winter Memories, but also gave her followers a wonderful way to remember her.
Needless to say, as one of the most popular horses in training, Winter Memories will be sorely missed. “Jim Toner did a superb job, we feel terrible for him and the crew but he understands that Winter Memories represents five generations of horses for Darby Dan and we cannot and will not risk their safety, added Phillips.
Perhaps best known for overcoming trouble to get free just in time to uncoil a breathtaking late rush, Winter Memories retires with 8 wins in 12 starts, including seven graded stakes victories. Her penchant for the thrilling was never more evident than in last summer’s Grade 1 Garden City Stakes at Belmont Park.
We are terribly disappointed of course and, while I admit to being totally biased, I think she is the best in her division with the kind of athleticism that left you in near disbelief of her ability to overcome,” Phillips went on to say. “Winter Memories has been an incredible blessing for the family and Darby Dan.”
On a personal note, the first time I saw the gray daughter of El Prado in person was at the 2010 Breeders’ Cup. Standing in the Churchill Downs paddock, I saw the then two-year-old filly schooling for her date in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. As she walked by me close enough to reach out and touch, I was struck by her dappled out coat, alert eyes, and physicality. She did not look like a two-year-old filly, and she possessed that presence that only the really good ones have. At the time she had made only two lifetime starts, but her previous win in the Miss Grillo Stakes was already a huge calling card.
Arrangements are being made to ship Winter Memories back to Darby Dan where she will join her dam, Memories of Silver, another favorite of mine, and multiple graded stakes winner in her own right. No breeding plans have been formulated for Winter Memories yet, but her mom proved to be that rare star runner who was able to produce a foal as talented as she was. For Winter Memories, I wish her every opportunity to do the same.