DIANA STAKES | PURSE: $600,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES AND MARES GRADE 1 | 1 1/8-MILES (TURF)
Phillips Racing Partnership's homebred Winter Memories was able to employ her late kick to devastating effect in Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Diana Stakes at Saratoga. Given a perfect stalking trip by Javier Castellano, with clear sailing throughout, the talented gray stormed to the front at the top of the stretch and joined her dam, Memories of Silver, on the Diana honor roll. Memories of Silver, a multiple Grade 1 star and millionaire, landed the Diana in 1998.
Winter Memories emulated her dam in another respect, by pushing her earnings into seven-figure territory. With this second Grade 1 coup on her resume, the four-year-old boosted her bankroll to $1,268,100 from her 12-8-2-0 line.
Making the accomplishment even more poignant, both mother and daughter represent the same connections -- the Phillips family and trainer Jimmy Toner.
Although Winter Memories has at times been confounded by traffic, or if the race didn't set up for her, Toner has never lost his faith in her. Nor has the betting public, which has sent her off favored in each career start. She faced no such obstacles to glory in the Diana.
The 8-5 Winter Memories raced just within striking distance throughout, just 1 1/2 lengths off the pace set by Tapitsfly. She was lapped onto the outside of defending champion Zagora, covering that rival up while keeping herself in the clear.
Tapitsfly was coming off an emphatic defeat of Winter Memories in the Grade 1 Just a Game on Belmont Day, where she shook free early and turned in a front-running tour de force. The Diana unfolded differently, for Tapitsfly was prompted by British invader Law of the Range through fractions of :23 1/5 and :47 2/5 on the good inner turf. Tapitsfly inched away from her gadfly when reaching six furlongs in 1:11 1/5, but she was already looking vulnerable swinging into the stretch.
By that point, Winter Memories was launching a powerful circling move. In the blink of an eye, she bolted past the weakening Tapitsfly and opened up by two lengths in midstretch. French shipper Dream Peace, the only rival in the picture, rallied gamely in pursuit. But she could do no more than prod Winter Memories to maintain her momentum.
Despite flashing her tail and drifting out inside the final sixteenth, Winter Memories bested Dream Peace by 1 1/2 lengths at the wire. After negotiating 1 1/8 grassy miles in 1:48 2/5, the favorite rewarded her loyalists with $5.50, $3.40 and $2.60.
"She is one very, very good horse, and we're proud to have her," owner/breeder John Phillips said. "She's tough. I know one thing about her -- she, like the rest of her family, will give her best. It's a wonderful quality, in people or horses.
"I almost didn't know how to handle (her having a clean trip). She was four-wide and trouble-free, and I'm thinking, 'I'm not sure what's going to happen here!' It was quite a move that she made."
Winter Memories struck the front with a sudden move (Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)
"There was no pace," Toner said. "I think we were closer due to the way the race was shaping up. I just left it in Javier's hands and said, 'Just do what you want to do, but I wouldn't let (Tapitsfly) get too far away from us today.
"I was aware (that speed had been doing well on the turf)," Toner added. "It didn't make me feel any better going into it. I saw that and said, 'Oh, this is not good.' But I do think (Law of the Range) put a little pressure on (Tapitsfly), and Javi just got after her a little bit sooner."
Castellano also commented on the pace scenario.
"There wasn't much speed in the race -- that was my concern," Castellano said. "Tapitsfly took advantage the last time (in the Just a Game). There was not much speed in that race and it was a short distance (one-turn mile).
"Today was my opportunity. My filly is a 1 1/8-mile or a 1 1/4-mile horse. She likes the two turns.
"It worked out great -- it was amazing," her rider remarked. "She was able to finish so well today."
Dream Peace was much the best of the rest by 3 1/4 lengths, to the delight of Etreham Farm's Nicolas de Chambure.
"It was her first time (running) since May, so she probably needed the race," Chambure said. "She's staying in America now (with Chad Brown), so hopefully we'll be able to pick up a Grade 1 win for her. We're very happy though, she ran a very good race."
The Brown-trained Zagora never picked up in third, edging Tapitsfly by a neck.
"I hadn't run her in 10 weeks; I thought I had her ready," Brown said. "Maybe she was just a little short, but it was a tremendous performance, and hats off to the winner."
Hungry Island, who had shocked Winter Memories almost exactly a year ago in the Grade 2 Lake Placid here, was a non-threatening fifth. Law of the Range gave way badly and trudged home last.
Winter Memories first proclaimed herself a turf star on the rise with a smashing debut win at the Spa as a juvenile. She went on to land the Grade 3 Miss Grillo in scintillating style before suffering her first loss when runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. In 2011, her sophomore campaign began with three straight wins in the Grade 3 Appalachian, Grade 2 Sands Point and Grade 2 Lake George, but her skein ended in the aforementioned Lake Placid. Winter Memories rebounded with a vengeance in the Grade 1 Garden City, only to cap the season on a flat note when fourth in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.
In her four-year-old bow, Winter Memories crushed the opposition in the Grade 3 Beaugay on May 5. That was designed to get her fighting trim for the June 9 Just a Game, but she never landed a blow against the loose-on-the-lead Tapitsfly and had to settle for second.
Sired by El Prado, the Kentucky-bred has put her dam Memories of Silver in good company. Another famous mare to win the Diana, and produce Diana winners, is Glowing Tribute. Broodmare of the Year in 1993, and best known as the dam of Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero, Glowing Tribute won the 1976 Diana, and daughters Wild Applause (1984) and Glowing Honor (1988-89) both captured the Diana themselves.
Memories of Silver scored her other signature wins in the Grade 1 Beverly D. and Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland. An eight-time stakes winner, the Silver Hawk mare placed in such Grade 1 events as the Flower Bowl, Yellow Ribbon and Matriarch. As a broodmare, she is also responsible for Grade 3-placed stakes heroine La Cloche and stakes scorers British Blue and War Trace.
Further back, this is the family of recently-deceased sire Dynaformer, Kentucky Derby hero Monarchos, multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Brian's Time and champions Ryafan and Sunshine Forever.