Winter Memories turned in her final workout in preparation for her Grade 1 debut in next Saturday’s Garden City, breezing five furlongs in 1:03.48 Sunday morning over the inner turf course at Belmont Park, labeled good with the dogs out.
“She went really nice and finished up her breeze good,” said trainer Jimmy Toner. “She came back good and we are ready to go, right where we want to be.”
The 3-year-old daughter of El Prado rattled off three consecutive graded victories to start her sophomore campaign – the Grade 3 Appalachian at Keeneland in April, the Grade 2 Sands Point at Belmont in May, and the Grade 2 Lake George at Saratoga in July – before finishing fourth as the 1-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid at Saratoga on August 21.
Following the Woodford Reserve Lake Placid, the decision was made to switch her rider from Jose Lezcano – who has been aboard for all seven of her lifetime starts – to Javier Castellano, second leading rider at the 2011 Saratoga meet.
“Javier has been aboard for her last two breezes,” Toner said. “Both times she went off nice and easy, like 13 and 26. The main thing to try and get across with her is to try and get her to relax early and then let her finish.”
In the Garden City, Winter Memories, owned by Phillips Racing Partnership, will look to turn the tables on Hungry Island and Kathmanblu, who finished first and second, respectively in the Woodford Reserve Lake Placid.
One of the reasons Toner cited for his filly’s performance in her most recent race was that she may not have relished being on the inside of the yielding Saratoga turf course.
“The last time, the turf was [yielding], and she didn’t handle it as good as we would have liked to because she went down onto the inside where it was a bit boggy,” Toner said “When she won on the [yielding] ground here [Grade 3 Miss Grillo in 2010], she was outside on the crest. That’s where you have to be when you’re running on the soft ground. She will handle it as long as she is on the right part of the track.”