08/22/2011 2:24PM

Saratoga: Hungry Island, Winter Memories look set for rivalry after Lake Placid Stakes

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Tom Keyser
Hungry Island wins Sunday’s Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Going into Sunday’s Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga, trainer Shug McGaughey knew his filly, Hungry Island, was going to run her best race. What he was less sure about was whether it was going to be good enough to beat the heavily favored Winter Memories.

While 2-5 favorite Winter Memories didn’t have the best of trips, it likely would not have mattered as Hungry Island powered home from last under Alex Solis to win the Lake Placid by 5 1/4 lengths – with odds-on Winter Memories checking in fourth – and perhaps start a budding rivalry between these two 3-year-old turf fillies.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Winter Memories and some of the others in there,” McGaughey said Monday morning. “That was obviously a pretty big step up for her, and I thought that she handled it very well. I knew that she could finish against such a slow pace – which she had done at Belmont – so I wasn’t really worried about that. He just let her run the last quarter of a mile, she was there.”

With heavy rains having turned the turf course yielding, Hungry Island was last behind an opening half-mile in 51.91 seconds. While she had an unimpeded trip outside horses, Winter Memories was stuck in traffic between horses before attempting to rally along the rail.

“I had a lot of confidence going in,” McGaughey said. “I didn’t know if we could beat Winter Memories or not, but I knew if we fired she’d know we were in there.”

There’s a good chance Hungry Island and Winter Memories will be seeing a lot more of each other. Both are targeting the Grade 1 Garden City at Belmont on Sept. 17 and the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 15.

Meanwhile, McGaughey has his sights set on a couple of other big stakes this weekend. On Friday, he will send out Hymn Book in the Grade 2, $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Hymn Book has actually made his last two starts on dirt, winning an overnight stakes and finishing second in the Grade 2 Suburban, both at Belmont Park.

It would not have been surprising to see Hymn Book, who has three wins and two seconds from six turf starts, in the Woodward here on dirt Sept. 3.

“I know he likes [the dirt] at Belmont, I thought maybe run in the grass race here and if he’s okay come back in the [Jockey Club] Gold Cup or something,” McGaughey said.

Hymn Book drew post 8 in an 11-horse field entered Monday for Friday’s Bernard Baruch. Get Stormy, the defending Baruch winner and multiple Grade 1 winner, drew post 11 and has to carry high weight of 122 pounds.

Others entered in the Baruch are Turallure, Paris Vegas, Beau Choix, Baryshnikov, Boots Ahead, Blues Street, Loup Breton, and Moryba.

On Sunday, McGaughey will send out the filly Protesting in the Grade 1, $300,000 Personal Ensign Invitational, a race he won last year with Persistently, who upset Rachel Alexandra and Life At Ten.

Protesting’s task will be less daunting as she won’t have to face the stalwarts of the distaff division in Blind Luck and Havre de Grace.

“I think without Blind Luck and Havre de Grace it’s a pretty even field,” McGaughey said. “The one thing I do think is she’ll run a mile and a quarter; she’s good right now, so why not take a shot.”

Others expected for the Personal Ensign are Ruffian Invitational winner Ask the Moon, Acronym, Pachattack, Payton d’Oro, and Super Espresso.

Toner rues Winter Memories’s tough trip

On Monday morning, trainer James Toner was still trying to shake off the disappointment of Winter Memories’s shocking fourth-place finish in the Lake Placid.

Winter Memories suffered through an eventful trip under jockey Jose Lezcano when locked in between horses for the first mile of the nine-furlong Lake Placid before angling sharply to the rail near midstretch from where she failed to muster her usually potent closing rally.

“It was a tough trip,” Toner said. “She was in a bad spot, in tight almost the whole way. Then she dropped inside, which is always deeper and boggier over a wet course like we had for this race. The opening might look enticing, and at that point Jose had no choice, but horses just don’t accelerate on that part of the racetrack over a yielding course like they might racing outside the crown of the track. The sad part is that she’s got such a great following and she didn’t have a chance to show herself yesterday.”

Toner said Winter Memories, who overcame a similarly rough trip to capture the Lake George earlier in the meet, came out of the race in good order and would now be pointed to the Grade 1 Garden City at Belmont Park on Sept. 18. He also said it is extremely unlikely that Winter Memories would compete in the Breeders’ Cup later this fall.

“Right now, our main goal for her is the Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland,” Toner said. “She’s a 3-year-old, and it was never my intention to start her in the Breeders’ Cup against older horses where the options are to either run her at a mile or a mile and three-eighths.”

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch