Grade I winner Winter Memories started her 2012 season in fine form with a 2 1/4-length victory in the $150,000 Beaugay Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park May 5, giving jockey Eddie Castro his 2,000th North American victory (VIDEO).
With Castro aboard for the first time in her career, Winter Memories tallied as the 9-10 favorite on a yielding Widener turf course at Belmont. She raced in fourth behind fractions of :49.90 and 1:13.98, brushed with Check the Label while moving outside, and took off after getting the space she needed to easily defeat Gitchee Goomie.
“She relaxed fine in the beginning behind the other horses,” said Castro, a 27-year-old native of Panama who began riding in the United States in 2003. “I knew there was not too much speed, so I had to be right there. With no speed -- the turf is really soft, too -- I had to wait, wait.
"At the top of the stretch, the other horse pushed me in, but I pushed back a little bit. When she was clear and she could run, she took off.”
Winning trainer Jimmy Toner lauded Winter Memories and Castro for their performances in the Beaugay.
“She put in a really nice race,” Toner said. “She really did. You could see they were all just getting ready to box her in there, and (Castro) was patient. When they tried to push him back in, he came back out. Boy, he rode a beautiful race.”
Winter Memories, a 4-year-old daughter of El Prado out of the Silver Hawk mare Memories of Silver, earned her fourth graded-stakes win at Belmont and sixth overall and paid $3.90 for a $2 win wager. The Phillips Racing Partnership homebred completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.87.
The Beaugay was Winter Memories’ first start at Belmont since her dramatic neck win in the Garden City (gr. IT) last September. She concluded her 2011 campaign with a fourth as the favorite in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) in October at Keeneland. Overall, she is 7-1-0 from 10 starts with $808,100 in earnings, including $90,000 for her Beaugay triumph.
Toner said Winter Memories will target the $500,000 Just a Game (gr. IT) June 9, Belmont Stakes day.
Gitchie Goomie, ridden by Alan Garcia, nosed out Principal Role and Junior Albardo for third. They were followed by Federation, Check the Label, and Hessonite. La Cloche, who was coupled with Winter Memories; Check Point; and My Redbyrd were scratched.
Castro, third in the jockey standings at the recently concluded Aqueduct Racetrack spring meet, registered his first North American victory aboard Diamond and Notes on April 23, 2003, at Gulfstream Park. He went on to win 241 more races that year and earned the 2003 Eclipse Award as the nation’s top apprentice jockey despite missing three months.
In 2005, he set a national record when he rode nine winners on a single card at Calder Casino & Race Course. Last year on the NYRA circuit, Castro finished sixth overall with 111 victories, including grade I wins in the TVG Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks aboard It's Tricky and the Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial with Toby's Corner.
He reached the 1,000-win milestone Nov. 15, 2008, at Churchill Downs.