07/28/2012 4:25PM

Saratoga: Winter Memories looks like a million in popular Diana victory

Tom Keyser
Winter Memories proves a decisive Diana winner under Javier Castellano.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Winter Memories, whose popularity with the fans may be exceeded only by her sheer brilliance on the racetrack, registered the most important victory of her career when rallying to a 1 1/2-length victory over European invader Dream Peace in Saturday’s Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga.

Winter Memories, who walked out of the paddock to the cheers of her adoring public, benefited from a perfectly judged ride by jockey Javier Castellano in the 1 1/8-mile Diana decided over a turf course dampened by rain over the past several days and officially listed as “good” at post time.                                                                   

Winter Memories rated within easy striking distance of the pacesetting Tapitsfly, who defeated her fairly convincingly seven weeks earlier in the Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont Park. But the added distance, softer course, and a little extra pace pressure made Tapitsfly an easy target when Winter Memories came calling in early stretch. Winter Memories readily took command approaching the eighth pole, edged clear despite switching back to her left lead, then maintained a safe advantage over the late-charging Dream Peace while swishing her tail and drifting a bit from mid-stretch to the wire.

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Dream Peace, an Irish-bred daughter of Dansili who has done the majority of her racing in France, saved ground under patient handling from Julien Leparoux, launched her bid exiting the final turn but proved no match for the winner. Zagora, the defending Diana champion, finished another 3 1/4 lengths further back in third.  She was followed by a tiring Tapitsly, a disappointing Hungry Island, and Law of the Range, who stopped badly after prompting the early pace.

The Diana gave Winter Memories, who is trained by Jimmy Toner for owner-breeder Phillips Racing Partnership, her second Grade 1 victory.  She became racing’s newest millionaire in the process, the winner’s share of the $600,000 Diana purse swelling her earnings to more than $1.26 million.

Winter Memories, not only a fan favorite but the post-time favorite as well, completed the distance in 1:48.50 and paid $5.50.

“Not to take anything away from Tapitsfly but I felt like she had to come back and prove herself today after her last race,” said Toner. “[My horse] did everything right, Javier rode a great race on her and at least I know we’re back in the game again. She did lose her concentration a little bit down the stretch, she’ll do that, she gets to looking around, the ears go up, and then Javier hit her and she got back into it again.”

Toner said he had “no idea” what would be next for Winter Memories.

Nicolas de Chambure, the owner of runner-up Dream Peace, was pleased with his filly’s big effort that came in just her second North American appearance and first start since May 20 .

“It was her first start since May so she probably needed a race as well,” said Chambure. “She’s staying in America now and hopefully we’ll be able to pick up a Group 1 win for her. I’m very happy, she ran a very good race.”

Dream Peace will remain in the U.S. with trainer Chad Brown.