You can't be the best without beating the best. And that's why Winter Memories - as brilliant as she might be - cannot be considered the best.
Winter Memories has gotten off to a perfect start in 2011, winning her first three starts. All of them have been graded stakes. And, in the last two, she has looked nothing short of dazzling. Her stretch runs in both the Sands Point (G2) at Belmont, and the Lake George (G2) at Saratoga were absolutely marvelous. She inhaled her competition in each instance, while being geared down before the wire. They were visually remarkable. She clearly has more to give. And she has a chance to be very special.
Here's the problem: The level of her competition has been, well, pretty low. Like New York Mets low. Los Angeles Clippers low. Detroit Lions low. 2012 Presidential candidates low. You get the idea.
So far, Winter Memories has yet to line up against a single 2011 graded stakes winner. While that will change Sunday in the Lake Placid (G2), the field for that race pales in comparison to the one that will assemble a day earlier, in the Alabama (G1). That race will feature; a duel Grade I winner (It's Tricky), the Kentucky Oaks winner (Plum Pretty), and the Black-Eyed Susan winner (Royal Delta), to say nothing of graded stakes winner St. John's River, and intriguing Canadian star Inglorious. The Lake George field just doesn't measure up.
Compounding the problem for Winter Memories is that her trainer, Jimmy Toner, has stated that they are going to spot her pretty conservatively. The goal all along for Winter Memories has been, and will continue to be, the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland in October. The words "Breeders' Cup" have never crossed Toner's lips at any point with regard to the star filly, that is.
That means, in the best-case scenario, Winter Memories will go a perfect 6-for-6 (assuming a win on Sunday, followed up by wins in the Garden City [G1] at Belmont in September, and the QE II). But she, most likely, will not have beaten a single Grade I winner. And she will not have beaten older fillies and mares.
Put it this way: if you were to rank the top three year old fillies, how far down the list would you have to go in order to find one that Winter Memories has faced? At least five runners in the Alabama field will certainly find themselves on that list ahead of any past, present, or near future Winter Memories opponent. And that is why the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2011 will, most likely, go to one of them.
To a large extent I agree with that, Joe, but let’s face it … until one of the dirt fillies beats Blind Luck or Havre De Grace, they have not beaten the best either.
You got that right; Winter Memories is off to a perfect start. She is 3 for 3, all in graded stakes, and each better than the last. Her win in the Lake George was nothing short of breathtaking, checking on the far turn, before swinging out wide and blowing by her competition like they were standing still. Her juvenile record is further evidence of her excellence, with only a tough-trip 2nd in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf getting in the way of a perfect career record. In short, she is the best young turf filly this nation has seen in many years, and that includes Wait a While, the turf filly who was named Champion 3yo Filly of 2008.
I’m not so sure about that. The fact that the sophomore fillies have not yet had the opportunity to stand out seems more a function of the schedule, rather than they are proven to be weak. One thing is for sure, there is one standout, and her name is Winter Memories.
The Alabama is a solid field, I will not disagree there, but have you noticed that not one of those fillies has more than two graded stakes wins? I think that lack of dominance puts a hurting on any chance for a year end award to go to one of the Alabama fillies. Now if It’s Tricky were to win on Saturday, that would make your argument much stronger, but I am picking against her. If I am right, that means post-Alabama; those fillies will still be stuck at 2 or under in the graded stakes win category. Meanwhile, it would be a huge surprise if Winter Memories does not collect number four on Sunday.
It remains to be seen whether or not Toner pulls the trigger at 11 furlongs against the older set, but look at this way … Even if he does not, I will not hesitate in choosing the filly that has a dominant and perfect season in graded stakes on turf vs. the best of the bunch of the three-year-old dirt set that stands little chance against Blind Luck or Havre De Grace in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Wouldn’t you?
6 for 6 (all in graded stakes) sounds pretty good to me! By the way, they just announced the Horse of the Year in Australia. It was Black Caviar over So You Think. Perfection in sprint races was valued over the top horse in the classic races down there the past few years.
Well she already has beaten a Breeders’ Cup winner in More Than Real. That is more than any of the Alabama fillies can say, and I expect her competition only to get better as the year goes on. I notice even during this debate it is all about Winter Memories. She is perfect, she is dominant, but she has beaten that much. I say that is what great horses do. They get talked about. People are excited to see them run … even if they make their competition look less than stellar. Winter Memories is just such a horse. If she keeps on rolling like she has so far this year, I cannot see giving the Eclipse to anyone else.