Prime Cut Works Toward Belmont Start

Prime Cut works toward possible Belmont start

PRIME CUT (Bernstein), a candidate for the $1 million Belmont S. (G1) on June 11, worked five furlongs in 1:03 3/5 on Tuesday at Churchill Downs.

Exercise rider Dane Noel was in the saddle for trainer Neil Howard as Prime Cut covered the distance over a fast track in fractional splits of :13 2/5, :26 and :38 1/5 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:16 2/5.

'Everything went good,'Howard said. 'I was just looking to go just a nice five-eighths -- not too fast, not too slow. I thought he went well, finished good and galloped out strong. He's been running -- he's just come off the Peter Pan (G2) -- so he's a pretty fit horse.'

Howard said Prime Cut remains in the Belmont Stakes picture, but a final decision is pending.

'He's a possibility,'Howard said. 'We're still going to take another couple of days before we make a decision.'

Prime Cut finished third in his most recent start behind Alternation (Distorted Humor) in Belmont's Peter Pan and was runner-up to Derby Kitten (Kitten's Joy) in the Lexington S. (G3) prior to that. His lone win in five races this year was a victory over the well-regarded Bind (Pulpit) in an allowance race at Fair Grounds. His career record stands at 2-2-2 in seven races with earnings of $123,685.

Meanwhile, Howard is making stakes plans for two other talented three-year-olds in his care. The trainer said WILKINSON (Lemon Drop Kid), winner of Fair Grounds' Lecomte (G3), would likely compete next in the $125,000 Matt Winn S. (G3) -- formerly known as the Northern Dancer -- on Stephen Foster Day, June 18, at Churchill Downs. Derby Trial (G3) winner MACHEN (Distorted Humor) will likely run in the Dwyer (G2) on July 2 at Belmont Park.

Winter Memories romps in Sands Point

Phillips Racing Partnership's homebred WINTER MEMORIES (El Prado [Ire]), who had conquered the Miss Grillo S. (G3) last fall in her only prior appearance at Belmont Park, dished out the same peremptory treatment to her overmatched rivals in Monday's $150,000 Sands Point S. (G2). Trained by James Toner and ridden by Jose Lezcano, the 3-5 favorite bolted three lengths clear and stated her case as the nation's top three-year-old turf filly.

Unlike in the Miss Grillo, where she lagged well off the pace on the yielding Widener turf, Winter Memories was close throughout in the Memorial Day feature, contested on the firm inner turf. The gray took a strong hold while stalking Arch Support (Arch) and Mystical Star (Ghostzapper) through fractions of :26 and :51 2/5.

Winter Memories ranged ever closer until the trio raced abreast at the six-furlong mark in 1:13 1/5. Then the highly-regarded daughter of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Memories of Silver (Silver Hawk) left her rivals toiling. Accelerating in the blink of an eye, Winter Memories bounded away to finish 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 3/5, extending her stellar record to 5-4-1-0, $450,600. The impressive winner furnished mutuels of $3.20, $2.40 and $2.10.

'She just galloped over there,'Lezcano recapped. 'I had to go very close to the pace, but when I asked her, she gave me the same kick she always gives me and she picked it up very quick. She usually sits back and makes a run, but today there was no pace in the race, so I had to do what I had to do. This is the kind of filly you can do whatever you want with, you can keep her close or you can take her back. Today, with six horses and no pace, I had to put her in the race.'

'Ordinarily, you don't want to be that close,'Toner remarked, 'but when they go in :51 you can't be 10 lengths back. Now that she's getting racier, she wants to be more forward. As soon as they started slowing it down, she took him up there. We discussed the lack of pace beforehand, but I don't tell Jose what to do. He knows the filly really well and gets along with her.'

Celestial Kitten (Kitten's Joy) was best of the rest by three-quarters of a length. Parting Words (Artie Schiller) checked in third, trailed by Naples Bay (Giant's Causeway), Mystical Bay and Arch Support. The main-track-only entrant Life's Measure (Chapel Royal) stayed in the barn.

Winter Memories has been favored in all five career starts. The gray signaled her talent in a smart debut victory at Saratoga last September, and confirmed that impression still further with a 5 1/4-length tour de force in the October 3 Miss Grillo. Winter Memories was expected to complete the hat trick in the November 5 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2), but a troubled trip in traffic proved to much to overcome, and she settled for runner-up honors. She made a winning reappearance in the April 21 Appalachian S. (G3) at Keeneland.

Her dam, Memories of Silver, captured eight stakes during her three seasons of racing, including the 1996 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup S. (G1), in a Keeneland course-record 1:45 4/5 for 1 1/8 grassy miles, and the 1997 Beverly D. S. (G1). The bay mare also placed in the Matriarch S. (G1), Yellow Ribbon S. (G1) and Flower Bowl Invitational H. (G1) during her career and bankrolled more than $1.4 million. Memories of Silver's first two foals were stakes winners, British Blue (Storm Cat) and War Trace (Storm Cat), but she didn't have a graded-class runner until La Cloche (Ghostzapper) finished second in the Pucker Up S. (G3) on September 6.

Memories of Silver's latest progeny are a yearling colt by Bluegrass Cat and a newborn colt by Tiznow. She is herself a half-sister to Memories (Hail the Pirates), who captured the first division of the 1988 Miss Grillo S. (G2) when it was run at Aqueduct; Grade 3-placed stakes winner Memories of Gold (Time for a Change); and Irish listed-placed Childhood Memories (The Minstrel). Memories is herself the dam of Group 3 victor Russian Revival (Nureyev) while Childhood Memories is the granddam of multiple Grade 2 winner Liberian Freighter (Bertrando), who garnered the Arcadia S. (G2) and Inglewood H. (G3) in April.

Winter Memories' third dam is Grade 3 queen Java Moon (Graustark), and she comes from the same line as turf champions Ryafan (Lear Fan) and Sunshine Forever (Roberto); multiple Grade 1 winner and classic-placed Brian's Time (Roberto); and Grade/Group 2 heroes Tillerman (In the Wings [GB]) and Freedom Crest (To Freedom). Also in this family is Grade 1 victress Andover Way (His Majesty), best known as the dam of top sire Dynaformer (Roberto).

'Our main goal is the Queen Elizabeth II (at Keeneland in October),'Toner said. 'We'll figure out the best way to get her there and look at the Lake George ([G2] on July 27) and Lake Placid ([G2] on August 21) in Saratoga.'



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