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This week is a recap of the 1996 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland, written by Deirdre Biles in the Oct. 12, 1996 issue of BloodHorse.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Should Sidney Craig spend $200,000 to make his latest Argentinian star Different elibible for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) on Oct. 26 at Woodbine?
Should the talented 3-year-old filly Memories of Silver be entered against older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT)?
Both runners, based on their performances at Keeneland the first weekend in October, seemed to be saying, “Yes, yes, yes!” But their connections were reluctant to make a firm commitment.
After Different overcame a slow pace to take the Three Chimneys Spinster Stakes (gr. I) by 1 ½ lengths on Oct. 6, trainer Ron McAnally failed to nail down her future in a call on his mobile telephone to Craig in California. The only thing for sure: The filly would return to her West Coast base two days later.
Plans also were not set immediately for Memories of Silver, even though she smashed the course record for 1 1/8 miles in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) on Oct. 5.
“Truthfully, I didn’t plan past this race here but I think racing a 3-year-old filly against older horses would be asking a lot,” said trainer James J. Toner. “She’s done quite a bit already and I’m not in a big hurry with her.”
A grinning John Phillips, who campaigns the homebred filly in partnership with his mother, Joan Phillips, also refused to be pinned down.
“Oh sure, there’s a chance she could go (to the Breeders’ Cup),” he said. “But I can’t and won’t tell you now. We’ll have to see how she comes out of the race. Then we’ll consider our options. She has a great future and I won’t compromise it for the short term.”
Phillips is the managing partner of Darby Dan Farm, which was founded by his late grandfather John W. Galbreath. Various members of the family, emphasizing classic bloodlines in pedigrees, have bred and raced five of the Queen Elizabeth’s 13 winners. Preceding Memories of Silver were Graceful Darby (1987), Love You by Heart (1988), Plenty of Grace (1990), and Tribulation (1993). The last-named winner was bred and raced in partnership with Arthur Seelbinder and Dr. Ted Classen and she was saddled for the Queen Elizabeth by Toner.
Unraced at 2 because of a small fracture in a hind leg, Memories of Silver (Silver Hawk—All My Memories, by Little Current) has come a long way in a short amount of time. The bay filly lost three races on the dirt but is undefeated on the grass, with four consecutive victories since June. In her last outing before the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth, she rolled to a six-length win in the Nijana Stakes (gr. IIIT) on Aug. 21 at Saratoga.
Keeneland’s crowd of 18,131 on the opening day of the fall meet made Memories of Silver the third choice in the field of 10 3-year-old fillies, but in Phillips’ heart, she was the favorite.
“Everyone who has been around this filly knows that she has incredible acceleration,” he said. “For us, it’s been kind of like Christmas Eve. You know you’re going to get a bunch of presents but you just have to wait and not be too presumptuous about it.”
After all, Memories of Silver’s rivals were a tough bunch. They included Antespend, a McAnally charge who is a grade I winner on dirt and turf; Shake the Yoke, a group I winner in England as well as a multiple group III winner in France; North American graded winners Careless Heiress, Cuando Puede, Ms. Mostly, and True Flare; and Sensation, a group winner in England and France.
Under Robbie Davis, Memories of Silver relaxed in the middle of the pack early, but by the final turn she was weaving her way quickly among rivals. Davis then swung her to the outside nearing the stretch and she blew by favored Antespend with about one-sixteenth of a mile remaining.
“I cocked my stick and popped her (Memories of Silver) once and she exploded turning for home,” Davis said. “She was full of run and she was giving me just about everything.”
Memories of Silver held off hard-charging Shake the Yoke, the second betting choice, by a half-length. Front-running Antespend, who had looked like a sure winner before Memories of Silver got in gear, wound up third, five lengths behind the runner-up. True Flare was fourth, followed by Ms. Mostly, Careless Heiress, Sensation, Cuando Puede, Gastronomical, and Housa Dancer.
The winner collected $248,000 and her time was 1:45.81. The previous mark over the Haggin Course configuration that was used for the Queen Elizabeth, according to Keeneland’s program, was 1:47.51. However, according to Daily Racing Form records, the old record for 1 1/8 miles was 1:46 4/5.
Neither Shake the Yoke nor Antespend was scheduled to try a Breeders’ Cup Championship Day race. McAnally, Antespend’s trainer, indicated she would be pointed for the Nov. 3 Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) at Santa Anita.
“Unfortunately I think she got a bad ride (from Chris Antley),” McAnally said. “When they run three-quarters of a mile in 1:09 and change, they don’t have anything left going a mile and an eighth.”
Afterword: The connections of Memories of Silver did opt to point her to the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Woodbine where she would finish fifth.