LAKE GEORGE STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | GRADE 2 | 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | 1 1/16 MILES
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- There will certainly be many richer and more important races decided over the final five weeks of the 2011 Saratoga session than Monday's $150,000 Lake George Stakes. There may not, though, be a more exhilarating performance during the remainder of the meet than that turned in by Winter Memories en route to her breathtaking 4 1/2-length triumph over Bellamy Star in the Grade 2 turf fixture for 3-year-old fillies.
Winter Memories not only avenged her only previous setback at the hands of More Than Real in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with her victory but also joined her dam, Memories of Silver, on the roster of Lake George winners. Memories of Silver captured the inaugural edition of the race in 1996.
As expected, Winter Memories was reserved at the rear of the field by jockey Jose Lezcano as her uncoupled stablemate Sunlight Sonata cut out an honest pace of 23.15 and 47.47 seconds for the opening quarter- and half-mile of the Lake George. Winter Memories was racing near the rail when she was forced to steady sharply over the heels of Calmafterthestorm approaching the quarter pole.
Lezcano abruptly swung Winter Memories to the extreme outside to gain clearance leaving the turn, after which she exploded once she changed leads at the head of the stretch. Winter Memories quickly blew by Bellamy Star inside the eighth pole, drew off with a rush and was being geared down by her rider approaching the wire.
Bellamy Star, making her first start since being purchased privately and transferred to trainer Todd Pletcher's barn earlier this summer, proved no match for the winner but remained a length clear of her new stablemate More Than Real to finish second.
Winter Memories completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.57 over a good course and returned $3.10.
"Down the backside I was concerned because it didn't seem like she was on the bit at all," said Jimmy Toner, who trains Winter Memories for the Phillips Racing Partnership. "And to be honest I didn't really see what happened when she had to take up on the turn, although Jose said he had to grab her or she would have clipped heels. And once you grab her, she really takes off. She just bounces over the grass and covers so much ground. In two or three strides, boom, she's there. This was probably her best race, and we learned something today - that you can drop her head and let her relax."
Toner said Winter Memories would be pointed for the Grade 2 Lake Placid on Aug. 21.