Multiple grade I winner Winter Memories has been retired from racing due to a degenerative bone condition in her ankles. In an Aug. 9 release, John Phillips, who bred and raced the daughter of El Prado in the name of his family's Phillips Racing Partnership, said, "This was a total surprise to everyone. She had trained flawlessly up to the Diana, raced impressively, and was happy to be back on the track again. But two days ago her ankles were warm, precautionary X-rays were taken, and the results showed a degenerative bone disease. The irony is I've never been around a more sound horse."
Winter Memories, a 4-year-old gray or roan filly, leaves the stage with a bang-up performance in the July 28 Diana Stakes (gr. IT) at Saratoga Race Course, where she displayed her devastating turn of foot while kicking clear at the top of the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Last September, she earned her first grade I victory in the Garden City Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park.
Winter Memories retires with eight wins and two seconds from 12 starts, all on turf, and earnings of $1,268,100.
Winter Memories is out of the Silver Hawk mare Memories of Silver, herself a grade I winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in 1996 and the following year's Beverly D. Stakes. Memories of Silver also won the Diana in 1998 when it was a handicap and a grade II event.
Phillips, in a 2010 interview with The Blood-Horse, related that Winter Memories was always special around the family's Darby Dan Farm because his mother, Joan, had always been partial to gray horses, but the farm just didn't seem to breed any of them. Shortly after Joan Phillips died, the striking gray Winter Memories appeared on the scene, and certainly lived up to the high hopes of the Darby Dan family.
"Winter Memories represents five generations of Darby Dan horses," noted Phillips, "and we cannot and will not risk her safety." Phillips went on to commend trainer James Toner for the work he did with Winter Memories through three racing seasons.
She won the Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. IIIT) in just her second start, and finished second in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT) in her next outing. She began 2011 with victories in the Appalachian Stakes (gr. IIIT), Sands Point Stakes (gr. IIT), and Lake George Stakes (gr. IIT). After a dull fourth in the Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Stakes (gr. IIT), Winter Memories won the Garden City. Earlier this year Winter Memories took the Beaugay Stakes (gr. IIIT).
She became a fan favorite for repeatedly extricating herself from tight spots, finding running room at the last possible moment, and then powering past her competition in breathtaking bursts.
"We are terribly disappointed," Phillips said. "She has the kind of athleticism that left you in near disbelief of her ability to overcome. Winter Memories has been an incredible blessing for the family and Darby Dan."
Winter Memories will be returned to Darby Dan Farm outside Lexington to take up broodmare duties alongside her dam and two half sisters. Another half sister, La Cloche, won the Voodoo Dancer Stakes this season and remains in training with Toner.