Winter Memories Bred for Success

To trainer Jimmy Toner, Darby Dan Farm’s legacy has long been cemented in thoroughbred racing history.


“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 farm.


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 Diana.


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 talent.


“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,” said Toner.


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.”




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