ELMONT, N.Y. - Trapped behind a wall of horses in midstretch, Winter Memories unleashed a breathtaking last-to-first run on the far outside through the final yards to nab Theyskens' Theory at the wire in Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Garden City at Belmont Park.
Although forwardly placed behind More Than Real through an opening quarter-mile in 26.40 seconds over the firm turf, Winter Memories was soon shuffled back to last as the field of eight 3-year-old fillies traveled down the backside through a half in 51.60 and three-quarters in 1:16.12. Offered no opportunity to go inside or split rivals once straightened for home, jockey Javier Castellano had to wait until well inside the eighth pole to angle the lanky gray filly to the outside. Once clear, she took off like a rocket without being asked and inhaled the field in a matter of strides, hitting the wire a neck in front.
"I didn't think she had a chance," said a breathless Jimmy Toner, who trains the daughter of El Prado for the Phillips Racing Partnership. "I can't believe the way she accelerated and exploded, in three strides. Phenomenal. Javier said to me, 'I knew she was going to win.' I said, 'I'm glad you did!'"
Garden City Stakes horse racing betting from Belmont Park at Off Track Betting
Winter Memories' time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:51.06 as she picked up her first Grade 1 victory.
"When everybody started to move, I had a chance to move her aside and let her find her kick," said Castellano, racing aboard Winter Memories for the first time. "She has a wonderful kick, and I think that's what my best advantage is. When I asked her, she took off. I'm very blessed to ride this filly; she's one of the best fillies in the country."
Sent off as the even-money favorite, Winter Memories returned $4.20 for a $2 win bet and earned $150,000 to increase her bankroll to $698,100. The Garden City was her fourth win in five starts this year, all in graded stakes, and avenged a stunning defeat last time out when fourth after a troubled trip in the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga Race Course.
"When they turned for home, she just was not going to be able to go anywhere and then he finally did get the break to slide to the outside and that was it," said Winter Memories' owner and breeder John Phillips of the Phillips Racing Partnership. "It's hard to believe that there was a little more gas left in the tank, but I think there was."
Theyskens' Theory, who traveled from Great Britain and who will remain in the United States, was 1 1/2 lengths clear of More Than Real.
"She ran a big race, so we're pleased," said Brian Meehan, trainer of the runner-up. "It was all good. You have to draw positives like that. It looked like she was the winner 100 yards out, but the favorite got stopped on the straight and got a sweet run on the outside."
Completing the order of finish were Hungry Island, Arch Support, Salary Drive, Pinch Pie, and Kathmanblu.
Next up for Winter Memories will be the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland Race Course on October 15, said Toner, as she wraps up a 2011 campaign that includes victories in the Grade 3 Appalachian, the Grade 2 Sands Point, and the Grade 2 Lake George.
"We're back on track, back in the game," he said.