Winter Memories

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Winter Memories
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QE II Challenge Cup: Catch Me If You Can

It will be speed vs. closing power as Summer Soiree and Winter Memories clash.

The Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. I) at Keeneland Oct. 15 should provide a classic matchup between the classy speed horse Summer Soiree and the powerful stretch runner Winter Memories.

Summer Soiree, who has made a habit of winning her races by huge margins, will dare Winter Memories, who is known for her spectacular turn of foot and explosive stretch runs, to come and catch her. Add several other talented fillies likely to be entered and the mile and eighth race looks to have all the ingredients for a memorable confrontation, especially between the two favorites.


Summer Soiree, who used to be trained by Larry Jones before being sold to Team Valor, had an unusual beginning to her career. Her first four defeats were by margins of 11 1/2, 10 1/4, 14 1/2, and 19 1/4, lengths, while her first four victories were by margins of 6 1/4, 9 3/4, 10 3/4, and 8 1/2 lengths. So, it would be an understatement to say it was feast or famine for the daughter of War Front.


All of those victories were accomplished on the front end and on dirt, grass, and synthetic, so she obviously runs on anything. In her last start, the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT), she sat in second, a length off the pace before opening a 5 1/2-length at the eighth pole and then holding on for a half-length victory.


Winter Memories on the other hand has been plagued by traffic problems in several of her races, but when she finally is able to extricate herself, the result is devastating, as she unleashes a turn of foot one normally doesn’t see in this country.


Trainer Jimmy Toner is hoping the number of top-class fillies in the Queen Elizabeth and the prestigious nature of the race will convince the other jockeys to ride their own race and not worry about Winter Memories, which didn’t seem to be the case in the filly’s last several races.


“It seems odd for the other jockeys to be riding her instead of riding their own horses,” Toner said. “There will be more speed on Saturday and that will give the race a chance to open up and spread out. In her past races, everyone sat and waited and slowed the pace down and she wound up in a box. I just want her to settle, have clear sailing, and make that one run. When there’s no pace she winds up closer than she wants to be and might fight you and doesn’t stay relaxed, so pace helps us in every regard.”


Summer Soiree’s trainer Graham Motion, however, doesn’t have to worry about traffic problems and realizes there is little he can do as far a strategy goes.


“She has a pretty high cruising speed and wants to be close to the pace, and I’m not going to change tactics,” Motion said. “She’s a tough filly to train in the mornings. I’m not crazy about taking on Winter Memories, but it’s a grade I and she’s one of the fastest fillies I’ve ever had, so maybe this is the time to do it. I just hope she performs the way I think she can and makes a race of it.”


Both Toner and Motion said the Queen Elizabeth is the race they’ve been pointing for all year, and they are not thinking beyond this race.


“We’ll see what happens after Saturday,” Toner said. “I just hope all goes well. The Breeders’ Cup remains to be seen. You’re looking at Stacelita in the Filly & Mare Turf and Goldikova in the Mile, so whatever race you run in is going to be tough. For now this (QE II) is our goal.


Winter Memories’ owner, John Phillips, grandson of Darby Dan Farm founder John W. Galbreath, has won this race five times, either under his name or names of his family members.


“This is our key race of the year; to get here in the best shape possible,” Toner said.


One of his winners of the QE II was Winter Memories’ dam, Memories of Silver.


“Memories of Silver was small, athletic, quick and fearless,” Toner said. “Winter Memories is bigger and stronger and needs more room. Both have ability and the character to perform at a high level.”