Friday, August 16, 2013

Remembering Winter Memories

Her race is a song of suspense—and with a final dramatic chord, victory! Then comes the lilting chorus of her gallop out, her head and ears high in triumph, her body long with reaching strides, her silver-tipped tail streaming like a banner. Spellbound, you can only marvel at the explosive display of power and grace that just played out on the stage of turf before you.

Winter Memories. Rarely has a horse so captivated me, so inspired me. Even her name alone reached into my soul and breathed fresh life into my muses. Each of her race entries was an invitation to a brilliant one-song performance, a gripping tale of drama and suspense. Despite her turf-churning turn of foot, winning did not always come easily to the Gray Lady. But no matter—there was another performance waiting in the wings, another chance to gallop out in glorious victory. Until one day.

Last Friday, August 9, marked one year since Winter Memories retired. To say the announcement of her retirement was a disappointing surprise is an understatement. On July 28, 2012 she had handily won the Diana Stakes (Gr. I) at Saratoga and with the Breeder’s Cup Filly & Mare Turf in her sights, she seemed destined to conquer the female turf stage. But it was not to be. With a heavy heart, I grudgingly accepted her retirement as reality—after all, it’s a part of racing. A few days after her retirement was announced, Winter Memories went home to Darby Dan Farm to take her place alongside her dam, Memories of Silver, in the farm's prestigious broodmare band.

The curtains had closed and the lights were dimmed but to my delight, I was granted an encore. On a lovely mid-October morning my husband and I visited Winter Memories at Darby Dan.

Not yet integrated with the broodmare band, Winter Memories was stabled in a small barn not far from the main stallion barn. We awaited her presence outside the barn in the morning sun and crisp fall air, and I held my breath as the groom walked into her stall. And then there she was—the songstress of the turf, she with the most explosive turn of foot I’ve ever seen, the Gray Lady herself.

The groom led her out and circled her into position. Head high, she sized up my husband and I before stepping to and fro, antsy, the racehorse in her peeking through. Patiently, the groom positioned her again and she settled into a high-headed gaze, surveying the horizon before her. The sky was a beautiful blue, the leaves of the trees were on the brink of bursting into color, and the rising sun touched Winter Memories with golden light.

Thank you for the memories, Winter.

DRF announcement of Winter Memories' retirement

Complete video compilation of Winter Memories' races (the 2011 Garden City is my favorite):

Sept. 3, 2010: Saratoga, Maiden Special Weight, Finish: 1
Oct. 3, 2010: Belmont Park, Miss Grillo Stakes (Gr. III), Finish: 1
Nov. 5, 2010: Churchill Downs, Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (Gr. II), Finish: 2
Apr. 21, 2011: Keeneland, Appalachian Stakes (Gr. III), Finish: 1
May 30, 2011: Belmont Park, Sands Point Stakes (Gr. II), Finish: 1
July 27, 2011: Saratoga, Lake George Stakes (Gr. II), Finish: 1
Aug. 21, 2011: Saratoga, Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Stakes (Gr. II), Finish: 4
Sept. 17, 2011: Belmont Park, Garden City Stakes (Gr. I), Finish: 1
Oct. 15, 2011: Keeneland, Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup Stakes (Gr. I), Finish: 4
May 5, 2012: Belmont Park, Beaugay Stakes (Gr. III), Finish: 1
June 9, 2012: Belmont Park, Longines Just A Game Stakes (Gr. I), Finish: 2
July 28, 2012: Saratoga, Diana Stakes (Gr. I), Finish: 1

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