Winter Garden Finds Icy Weather to Liking

(from track report)
With her performance in Saturday's $143,500 Star Shoot Stakes at Woodbine, Winter Garden proved she's much more than a fair weather filly.

Under snowy skies and cold conditions, Winter Garden, sent off at 12-1 in the six-furlong Star Shoot, turned up the heat against five rivals, including previously undefeated Hour Of Justice and the highly-regarded Handpainted.

"The race came up awfully tough and we didn't think we could win it," said conditoner Robert Tiller, who won three races on the afternoon card (Soitenly, 2nd; Slot Machine Jean, 3rd) for owner Frank DiGiulio Jr.

Jockey Chantal Sutherland sent the Kentucky-bred to the lead just after the gates opened, seizing command along the rail, keeping longshot foe Deputy Cures Blues to her outside through a quick opening quarter-mile in :21.93.

After a half-mile in :44.31, Sutherland, who earned her first stakes score on the season, geared Winter Garden up for the stretch drive, readying the son of Roy for a stiff challenge from a hard-charging favorite Hour of Justice.

"I felt that horse (Hour Of Justice) breathing down my neck, but I just put my stick away and rode," said the back-to-back Sovereign Award winner (2001, 2002) as the nation's top apprentice. "I just hoped for the best."

At the wire, Winter Garden prevailed by a half-length over Hour of Justice to win the race in a time of 1:09.04 over a main track rated as "fast."

For Tiller, the victory was indeed a sweet one, albeit a bit of surprise.

"We're thrilled with her. We'll try and stretch her out, but we'll just try and enjoy this moment for now. I'm happy."

In victory, Winter Garden, who finished fifth in last week's Glorious Song Stakes at Woodbine, now has career earnings of $159,502.

She paid $26.40, $6.20 and $3.70 across the board, combining with Hour Of Justice ($2.50, $2.20) for a $41.40 exacta. Buffalo Jump ($3.50) completed a $141.00 trifecta.

(Chart, Equibase)