Winter Memories is a special filly to Darby Dan Farm owner John Phillips, and it’s not just because she’s good enough to have been made the 2-1 morning line favorite for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
A daughter of El Prado, Winter Memories is out of the grade I-winning Silver Hawk mare Memories of Silver, whose accomplishments helped comfort Phillips and his family after the death of his father, James W. (Wally) Phillips in 1996.
“She was really lots of fun for us and it was neat for us to come together, bond, and spend time as family as we traveled with her following my father’s passing,” said Phillips of Winter Memories' dam, whoi finished fifth in the 1996 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).
Winter Memories was foaled on April 24, 2008, the same day as the funeral for Phillips’ mother, Joan (Jody) Galbreath Phillips, was held.
“My mother loved gray horses, and we never seemed to have them, but we got one that day in Winter Memories,” Phillips said. “In the eulogy, the pastor made mention of her. There is a lot of sentiment there.”
Winter Memories was bred and raced by the Phillips Racing Partnership, a family venture that now involves Phillips and his sisters, Dianne Albrecht and Debbie Bower. The filly is trained by Jimmy Toner, who conditioned Memories of Silver and saddled champion Soaring Softly to win the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) in 1999. Soaring Softly was bred by the Galbreath/Phillips Racing Partnership and raced for John Phillips and his late mother.
Heading into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at a mile, Winter Memories, who will break from Post 7, is undefeated. She broke her maiden in her career debut, triumphing by 1 ½ lengths at 1 1/16 miles on grass at Saratoga Sept. 3. She then rolled to a 5 ¼-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. IIIT) Oct. 3 at Belmont Park.
“In the first race she was in traffic on a very firm course, and she ran with more maturity than normally would have been expected given her lack of experience,” John Phillips said. “Her second race, on the other hand, was on a very soft track and she came around traffic. She did it very professionally.”
Those efforts gave Phillips confidence that Winter Memories will be up to the Breeders’ Cup challenge.
“She’ll be backing up a sixteenth of a mile from her first two races, there will be a 14-horse field, and the turns are tight,” Phillips said. “I suspect the trip is going to make a huge difference. I know she has a lot of talent, but whether she’s got the talent at the highest level, you can’t ever be sure until she actually goes out there and performs. The Breeders’ Cup is very exciting because it brings the elite horses together, and I think she does have the talent to succeed.”