To trainer Jimmy
Toner, Darby Dan Farm’s legacy has long been cemented in thoroughbred
“The whole farm is built on the foundation of these fillies
they’ve had for generations,” said Toner. “You talk about
Claiborne, the Phipps family, Juddmonte, and Darby Dan – they’re
all part of that. They’re an institution.”
Winter Memories, a descendent of one of those Darby Dan families, can
add to the farm’s legacy when she competes in the Breeders’ Cup
Juvenile Fillies Turf on November 5 at Churchill Downs.
A 5 ¾-length winner of the Grade 3 Miss Grillo at Belmont on October 3,
Winter Memories is the result of an enduring, successful partnership between
Toner and Darby Dan and four generations of carefully planned breedings at the
Winter Memories will be the first Juvenile Fillies Turf starter for the
breeder and Toner, who have teamed to win many of the most prestigious turf
races for fillies and mares in the United States. Tribulation, one of
the first horses Toner trained for the Phillips family, won the 1993 Queen
Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, with Memories of Silver, the dam of Winter
Memories, capturing the 1996 renewal of that race and in 1997 Beverly D.
Soaring Softly was named the 1999 Champion Female Turf Horse after
winning the Flower Bowl and inaugural Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare
Turf, and Wonder Again was victorious in the 2002 Garden City Handicap and 2004
These successes are no surprise to Darby Dan’s current owner, John
Phillips, who campaigns Winter Memories for the Phillips Racing Partnership. The
farm has maintained families that trace back to mares bred to Ribot and
Roberto, notable turf and stamina influences who stood at the farm prior to
their respective deaths in 1972 and 1988.
“Our emphasis has been on fillies for the past 20 years,
primarily to carry on certain families, and Ribot and Roberto have thrown more
turf horses than dirt horses,” said Phillips.
Toner appreciates how Phillips lets him develop these long-fused
fillies at his own pace.
“Mr. Phillips is very patient, and he lets you take your time as
a trainer,” said Toner. “There are few people in the business who
give you the opportunity to do things like that.”
Winter Memories, however, didn’t need much prompting to show her
“Kip Elser [of Kirkwood Stables] had her down at Camden, and he was very
high on her,” said Phillips. “And when she got to Jimmy, he was
very high on her. She was very advanced. Memories of Silver had shown potential
during her 2-year-old year, but she had a setback and didn’t race until
she was three. Winter Memories had been showing promise, but you never know
until they show it in the afternoon.”
Debuting on September 3 at Saratoga Race Course, Winter Memories bided
her time in seventh through the backstretch run, was briefly caught behind
tiring horses on the far turn, and closed along the hedge in the stretch to win
by 1 ½ lengths. She returned one month later in the Miss Grillo, racing wide
throughout and powering clear under a drive to win by a widening margin,
despite switching to her wrong lead after striking to the front.
“She takes off and looks around to see what’s going on and
loses focus a bit, then says ‘OK, fine’ and keeps going,”
While Memories of Silver has been a solid broodmare, having produced
two other stakes winners to date, Phillips wouldn’t mind seeing Winter
Memories outshine her siblings.
“Good horses are hard to find, and exceptional ones are even
harder to find,” said Phillips. “You hope they replicate themselves
– sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t – and you have to
give them every opportunity to do so. It’s great to get a good horse
under any circumstances, but when it’s the result of working on pedigrees
for half of a century it’s particularly rewarding.”