Winter Memories Wins Garden City

Winter Memories strutting her stuff following Garden City victory

It was a bright and lively WINTER MEMORIES (El Prado [Ire]) and an emotionally drained but happy Jimmy Toner who received a stream of congratulatory visitors Sunday morning following the filly's dramatic last-to-first victory in Saturday's Garden City S. (G1) at Belmont Park.

"Watching it again, I still can't believe she got up and won," Toner said. "I was thinking to myself, 'Oh, no, here we go again. Not again.' She doesn't make it easy, that's for sure. But she's fine, she's happy, she came back good. I was so wired I couldn't sleep last night. Hopefully today I'll catch up on my sleep. Maybe I'll get a nap in this afternoon."

Toner said the three-year-old filly's attitude following her neck victory Saturday was markedly different than her behavior following her stunning loss when fourth in the Lake Placid S. (G2) at Saratoga, her lone defeat of 2011.

"Last night, walking back over here she was ready to attack everybody," he said. "She was very different than last time; the time before, she was mad after that race. She was aggressive yesterday, but not mad. She was showing her stuff. She ate up good last night and was bright this morning, as you can see. We're in good shape."

The phone calls and messages began right after the race, said Toner, and they all said the same thing.

"Everybody is saying, 'That was unbelievable,'" he said. "Trapped in behind horses with less than an eighth of a mile to wasn't the idea you were going, 'Come on, come on, come on, get up there'...she gets loose, and she's there."
Winter Memories delighted her connections with her last-to-first move Saturday (Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)

Exactly how fast the gray lass Prado was going as she rocketed past the entire field in the final furlong remained unclear.

"The last eighth was timed in :11 1/5, so how fast did she go?" wondered Toner. "I don't know. I was trying to figure it out. Someone came by and said he thought it was :10 3/5. That's unheard of in a race -- 10 and change (for the final eighth). It's unbelievable, but she conceivably could have. She puts those ears back and she just goes. She's got a tremendous stride."

The difference between Winter Memories' loss to Hungry Island (More Than Ready) in the Lake Placid and her victory Saturday, her first in a Grade 1, came down to one main factor, Toner said.

"She didn't have any punch in the Lake Placid," he revealed. "She has to get clear to have that punch. She was never clear. She was behind horses in the Lake Placid and then ducked down to the inside, where it was really soft. With that kind of going, you don't really get a chance to accelerate. Your stride shortens up and I think that had a lot to do with it. Yesterday, on firm ground, she could grab hold and accelerate and that's what she did."

Toner had high praise for winning jockey Javier Castellano, aboard Winter Memories for the first time in a race.

"Javier knew every horse in the race and what they were doing. Once (Alex) Solis went on with Hungry Island, he knew they were all gone, and that he could then swing her to the outside," Toner said. "He was aware of everything. For him to have that kind of confidence, to be able to sit on the horse for as long as he did and just wait, is amazing. He rode her as if she was the best horse in the race. He's breezed her twice, but he's been watching her. He said, 'I know what she can do.' I think that's why Javier is where he's at today. He's at the top of his game."

Winter Memories will likely have one more start this year, on October 15 in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland, a race won by her mother, Memories of Silver (Silver Hawk), 15 years ago.

"The plan is to have two breezes her, and then go to Keeneland," Toner said.

Marketing Mix could face Winter Memories in QEII

Glen Hill Farm's MARKETING MIX (Medaglia d'Oro), who easily captured Saturday's Pucker Up S. (G3) at Arlington Park, came out of her impressive effort in good order and is likely to go to Kentucky for her next run in Keeneland's Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) on October 15.

That race, run over the Lexington lawn at nine furlongs, is shaping up as a possible confrontation between Marketing Mix and Winter Memories (El Prado [Ire]), who earned an equally eye-popping score in Saturday's Garden City S. (G1) at Belmont Park.

"(Marketing Mix) came back beautiful," trainer Tom Proctor said during training hours Sunday morning at Arlington. "She's a pretty good filly. We'll see, but I'd probably say the QEII is next.

"The Pucker Up was a good race but there's a big difference in the two races. But I know two of 'em (Pucker Up) winners have won that (next) race -- Chris Block's filly (Vacare in 2006) and Phil Sims' filly (Hot Cha Cha) two years ago."

Trainer Leigh Bentley took the high road and said nothing but good things when talking about the excellent runner-up performance of SEA LEVEL DRIVE (Malibu Moon) in the Pucker Up.

"She came out of her race yesterday just super," said Bentley, who was saddling her first stakes horse listed in her own name. "She ate up everything last night and is still looking super this morning."

Although Sea Level Drive romped by 12 3/4 lengths against optional claiming rivals on July 30, the dark bay miss was dismissed at 25-1 in the Pucker Up. Bentley never doubted her filly would put in a big run in the race, though.

"I've said all along this is a very nice filly and she showed everyone how good she is yesterday," Bentley said. "She's just getting better every day. Her race yesterday was very exciting for me."
The Pucker Up was wide open until Marketing Mix kicked into gear (Four Footed Fotos)

Sea Level Drive could get a shot to turn the tables on Marketing Mix as she, too, is headed to Keeneland for her next start.

"Most likely, we'll take a look at that Keeneland race (Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup [G1]) for her next start," Bentley said about future plans for Sea Level Drive.

TRAC N JAM (El Corredor), fourth choice in the wagering for the Pucker Up but ninth under the wire, came out of the race in good order, trainer Andy Hansen said Sunday, and will also be shipping south to Kentucky.

"She's fine this morning," Hansen said. "She was dragging the hot walker around this morning like she hadn't even run yesterday, and she really didn't. She never got a chance to run. She had a really rough trip yesterday and was forced to check several times.

"I would say we'll look for an allowance race at Keeneland to help her get her confidence back, although we'd probably have to run her against older horses and I'm not too thrilled about that. Ultimately, I'd like to shoot for the (October 21) Valley View (G3) with her down there. That's what I've got my eye on right now.

"She'll get another chance to prove herself down the line," added Hansen of the filly who won the Indiana Downs Distaff and was fifth in Saratoga's Lake Placid S. (G2) in another traffic-troubled run. "She's going to be a good one."

DON'T TELL SOPHIA (Congaree), third choice of the fans in the Pucker Up wagering, finished an unlucky 13th after a rough trip but was doing well Sunday morning, according to trainer and co-owner Phil Sims.

"She came out fine," Sims said Sunday morning. "She just had a really rough trip yesterday. It was pretty disappointing. She had a horrible trip."

Pucker Up pacesetter LOVE DARE (Osidy) was already headed back to Louisiana Sunday morning with trainer Al Sider following her last of 14 placing in the race.

"She was fading a little when she got brushed and then she just gave way," Sider said of his Pucker Up pacesetter. "I'm going to give her a little break and bring her back at Fair Grounds going a shorter distance. She'll do better at seven furlongs or a mile."



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