Winter Memories began her stellar 2011 campaign in April with a win at Keeneland and she could end the year the same way in the 28th running of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) at 1 1/8 miles Oct. 15.
Bred and owned by the Phillips Racing Partnership and trained by James Toner, Winter Memories arrived at Keeneland in Central Kentucky from her home base at Belmont Park Oct. 10, a day after having her final work for the QE II, going five furlongs in 1:01.45.
“The work was good and she shipped well,” Toner said before the El Prado filly had an easy gallop on the five-furlong training track at Keeneland, going a little more than twice around. “Everything is good here.”
Winter Memories’ victory in the Appalachian Stakes (gr. IIIT) started a campaign that Toner planned to end at Keeneland.
“Everything has gone to plan, except for one hiccup,” said Toner said of the 3-year-old filly’s fourth-place finish in the Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Stakes (gr. IIT) that stands as the only loss in five races this year.
The most recent victory was a neck triumph under a hand ride over Theyskens’ Theory in the Garden City Stakes (gr. IT) in which Winter Memories passed all seven of her rivals in the final furlong.
“What a thrill that was,” Toner said. “You don’t see that kind of move often. And from an emotional standpoint ... having her go from not expecting to do anything and a split-second later she is winning.”
The Garden City was the first grade I victory for Winter Memories. Success in the QE II would draw the filly even with her mother, Memories of Silver (by Silver Hawk), in grade I victories.
Memories of Silver won the 1996 QE II and set a Haggin Course record of 1:45.81 for the 1 1/8 miles in the victory. That time currently stands as the oldest Haggin Course mark in the Keeneland record book.
Memories of Silver, who raced three years and competed until she was 5, compiled a record of 19-9-3-5 and earned $1,448,715. Eight of the victories were in stakes, six of them graded.
“They are getting to be pretty similar,” Toner said of the two, “but they have different ways of getting it done.”
Winter Memories has compiled a record of 8-6-1-0 with five of the victories coming in graded stakes.
Tentative plans for 2012 call for Winter Memories to open her campaign again at Keeneland in the spring.