06/07/2012 12:15PM

Belmont Park: Winter Memories renews rivalry with Hungry Island in Just a Game

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Barbara D. Livingston
Winter Memories comes into the Grade 1 Just a Game off a victory in the Beaugay Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. – A rivalry between Winter Memories and Hungry Island that began in 2010 but heated up last summer gets renewed Saturday when the two 4-year-old fillies head a seven-horse field entered in the Grade 1, $500,000 Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park.

The Just a Game, run at one mile over the Widener turf course, goes as race 8 and is the first leg of a pick-four wager that has a guaranteed pool of $1 million.

This will be the fourth time Winter Memories and Hungry Island have met. The pair debuted in the same race – Sept. 3, 2010, at Saratoga – with Winter Memories winning and Hungry Island finishing third.

Hungry Island upset Winter Memories last August in the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga before Winter Memories turned the tables in the Grade 1 Garden City in September at Belmont.

Winter Memories is 4 for 4 at Belmont, while Hungry Island is 3 for 5. Winter Memories made a successful 4-year-old debut winning the Grade 3 Beaugay over this course in May. Hungry Island won the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill in her second start of the year.

“They got a good rivalry going,” said Jimmy Toner, trainer of Winter Memories. Hungry Island “has come back just as good as we have. She beat a better bunch of horses down there at Churchill.”

Toner likes the mile distance for Winter Memories because in those races there is usually a quicker pace, which would allow her to flaunt her rapid turn of foot. However, there doesn’t appear to be much speed in here.

“I think the main thing is as long as they separate a little bit she’ll have a better shot of getting clear,” said Toner, who has Javier Castellano to ride.

Hungry Island culminated a four-race win streak by beating Winter Memories in the Lake Placid. She lost her last two starts of the year, the Garden City and Mrs. Revere at Churchill. She won the Distaff Turf Mile after finishing third in a stakes-caliber allowance at Keeneland.

“She likes it here, likes this turf course, has trained great,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “I think she’s grown up a lot. She was a good filly last year, I just made a couple of mistakes with her.”

Tapitsfly finished second to Hungry Island in the Distaff Turf Mile. Trainer Dale Romans scratched her out of the Mint Julep at Churchill last Saturday to give her a shot at winning a Grade 1 race.

Tapitsfly, who drew the rail, could show speed under Ramon Dominguez.

“She needs a Grade 1 win, it made more sense to come here,” Romans said. “Her second on Derby Day, she ran her race and got beat. She’s doing really well right now, too. If things set up right, she’ll be tough.”

Dancinginherdreams, who won a third-level allowance on turf in her first start for trainer Bill Mott, is in with an upset chance.

Wallis, Up In Time, and Sylvestris complete the field.