Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Winter Memories lives up to her lofty heritage in the Lake George

Winter Memories blew by the field to capture the Lake George
Photo:  Adam Coglianese, Courtesy NYRA
Anyone who is trying to figure out who might be the best turf filly or mare in the country right now need look no further than the phenomenal Winter Memories, who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the mile-and-a-sixteenth Lake George-G3 at Saratoga today in truly spectacular fashion.  She deserves all of the superlatives that will be used to describe her scintillating performance.

It wasn't only that she trounced some very nice fillies--including last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, More Than Real--it was the way she did it, after jockey Jose Lezcano had to slam on the brakes as he attempted to guide the gray El Prado filly around the far turn from the back of the pack because another horse suddenly swung out in front of him.

But then Lezcano simply pushed an invisible button and Winter Memories effortlessly turned on the afterburners and overtook the leaders in what seemed to be only a handful of strides, crossing the finish line some four lengths ahead of her stunned rivals, while being geared down.  She stopped the timer in 1:41.57 as track announcer Tom Durkin exclaimed, "What a Filly!  A dazzling performance at the Spa today!"  Yes, indeed.

When people talk about great racehorses, they often mention heart.  What they usually mean is that intangible character of courage and determination that is difficult to measure.  But it's the other kind of heart that comes to mind when you watch Winter Memories accelerate.  Only a horse with a finely tuned internal combustion engine, in the guise of a superior cardiovascular system, coupled with biomechanical finesse, could do what Winter Memories did in the Lake George.  With her victory today, the Phillips Racing Partnership homebred remains perfect in her three starts at three different tracks this year.  She has compiled an enviable career record of 5-1-0 in six starts, with earnings of $540,000.

Winter Memories is just the latest in a long line of high-class turf performers descended from the revered Darby Dan mare, Golden Trail, ancestress of Champion Turf Mare Ryafan, Champion Turf Male Sunshine Forever, and Winter Memories' own dam, the distinguished Silver Hawk mare, Memories of Silver.  A tough and talented multiple grade I stakes winner who earned over $1.4 million during three seasons of racing, Memories of Silver notched her initial graded stakes score in the second running of the Lake George, and went on to capture the Queen Elizabeth-G1 at Keeneland in course-record time, as well as the Beverly D.-G1 and the Diana-G2.

Winter Memories is the eighth, and by far the most successful of Memories of Silver's foals.  She is bred on the same stamina-strengthening cross as the graded stakes-winning turf stars Kitten's Joy, Senor Swinger, and Paddy O'Prado, all of whom are by El Prado out of Roberto-line mares.

Assuming that Winter Memories comes out of the Lake George in good shape, her trainer, Jimmy Toner, expects her to make her next start in the mile-and-an-eighth grassy Lake Placid-G2 at Saratoga on August 21st.  Like the thousands of racing fans who were awed by the filly's exploits today, I can't wait.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Georgie's Angel wins the Schuylerville and breaks the mold

Georgie's Angel runs away with the Schuylerville-G3
Photo:  Courtesy of NYRA, Adam Coglianese
With her convincing victory in yesterday's six-furlong Schuylerville, two-year-old Georgie's Angel became not only the first graded stakes winner at Saratoga's 143rd summer meet, but a rising star for her second-crop sire, Bellamy Road.

The diminutive bay filly looks like she's all business, having banked $95,820 in her two perfect starts.  "She's always been a pretty straightforward, professional filly," said her trainer, Todd Pletcher, in an article in The Saratoga Special.  "She's a kind of filly that wants to please everybody."  If all goes well, we'll get to see her at Saratoga again at the end of the meet, in the marquee two-year-old filly contest, the seven-furlong Spinaway-G1.

Georgie's Angel is the second two-year-old graded stakes winner for Bellamy Road, a Kinsman Stud colorbearer who was himself a precocious juvenile, capturing two of his three starts in his debut season, including the Grade III Cradle Stakes at River Downs, under the tutelage of Michael Dickinson.  

Sent to Nick Zito for his three-year-old season, the son of Concerto triumphed in the Wood Memorial in spectacular fashion, equaling the track record for a mile and an eighth and besting his rivals by more than 17 lengths.  He suffered a splint injury while finishing unplaced in the 2005 Derby, but earned runner-up honors in Flower Alley's Travers, which would turn out to be his final start.  A comeback attempt at four was quashed by a recurrence of his old injuries, and Bellamy Road entered stud at Ben Walden's Hurricane Hall (now Pauls Mill) in Lexington, where he stands for $10,000.

Bellamy Road's first foals arrived in 2008, and they came out running.  At last summer's Saratoga meet, his undefeated daughter, Position Limit, won the Grade II Adirondack at six-and-a-half furlongs.  And earlier this year, Bellamy Road's son, Toby's Corner, emulated his sire's exploits by winning the Wood Memorial, and was considered a top Derby contender before an injury cut his campaign short.

Named for Bellamy Road's charismatic owner, George Steinbrenner, Georgie's Angel is the fifth foal from the Dynaformer mare, Lalka, who has produced three other winners, all by sprint specialist Richter Scale.  Her female family is chock full of distinguished Canadian stakes winners, including Lalka's half-sisters, Buffalo Jump and Gumboots.  Her third dam is the Canadian Two-Year-Old Champion, Ada Prospect, and she descends from the influential mare, Ormonda, granddam of Champion, Triple Crown Winner, and Horse of the Year Whirlaway, and ancestress of Roman Ruler.

When it comes to genetics, there are indications that Georgie's Angel is breaking the mold.  As Sean Clancy observed in his piece in The Saratoga Special, "By Bellamy Road, out of the Dynaformer mare, Lalka, Georgie's Angel should be big and should go long.  Instead, she's small and goes six furlongs on Opening Day at Saratoga faster than any of her rivals."  

And not only that.  Georgie's Angel is actually the second Bellamy Road filly produced by Lalka.  There were high hopes for the first one, a current three-year-old named Electric Boots, who sold for $125,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Sale in 2009.  But Electric Boots has failed to live up to expectations, or to her lofty price tag.  She has been unplaced in two starts, and finished a well-beaten ninth in a $20,000 maiden claimer last out at Churchill, on May 28th.  Notwithstanding the elder sister's lackluster record, though, it's clear that because of Georgie Angel's talent, the family's fortunes are on the rise.