• Handigrappling with the budding legend of Winter Memories

    POSTED Oct 14, 2011

    PTF: I have been a Winter Memories fan since the day of her maiden win, and I’ll admit that my admiration for this filly might be coloring my opinion a bit in this year’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes at Keeneland (not to be confused with the other race with the same name on the same day). But writers are supposed to write what they know, and bettors should bet horses that they know, and I feel like Winter Memories is pretty much nailed on to win this race on Saturday.

    EdD: I don’t know what offends me more, that Winter Memories will be the even money favorite to win the Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday at Keeneland or that people rank her as the top three-year-old filly in the country despite never having defeated a Grade 1 winner (eventual or otherwise).

    PTF: I hear what you’re saying, but this is a case where I look at what the connections have been trying to accomplish this season. I have to think that this race is the one they’ve been pointing to all along. I expect her to move forward in a big way in this target spot, and she faces a proper Grade 1 field here, so I feel like the second part of your comment should be tabled for now; you can only beat who they run against you. As for her price in the QE2, I would like more than evens to bet her properly, but even at that miniscule number I’d be inclined to single her on as much as 80% of my play.

    EdD: I guess I shouldn’t be disappointed with the action she’ll take since losses on her will hopefully be my gain, and at the very least it’s certainly a lesson in the fervor of which people attach themselves to horses. But best three-year-old filly in the country? If you asked owners to rank the order in which they would most want to win the following races—Acorn, Alabama, Garden City, Kentucky Oaks, and Test—I guarantee that the Garden City wouldn’t receive any first-place votes and would probably rank last, and that list of races doesn’t even include the two races Zazu won, the Las Virgenes and Lady’s Secret Stakes.

    PTF: I can’t sit here and tell you she’s the best three-year-old filly in the country, but I will offer up my personal (and humble) opinion, that she is the most exciting. When it comes to betting, I’m not big on the “Wow” factor, but as a fan of the sport, I absolutely love it. And when this gorgeous gray digs in her toe and quickens up her feet like she does, I say “WOW” in a big way.

    EdD: I can’t argue with the “WOW” factor since I wrote about her having it during the summer when she won on the same day as Frankel. I’ve also written about the closer bias before, and we’re far more likely to be wowed by closers just getting up to win than front runners who barely hang on, and that bias clouds are wagering sometimes as well. But the challenge from a wagering standpoint is that Winter Memories CAN win. Even as mostly a speed handicapper who sees her “slow” figures, I have to allow for her talent because any filly who can run a final eighth in ten seconds (maybe faster) is going to be dangerous. But her overall speed figures relative to the Queen Elizabeth II group are way too slow for me to accept even money. If she beats me then she beats me. I wouldn’t feel bad for betting heads at 6-to-5 if it comes up tails.

    PTF: I hear what you’re saying. I use figures as a primary factor in my handicapping, and in figure terms, she is too slow to be an even money favorite. Even some of the advanced, pace adjusted figs I use, which upgrade her, would suggest that she should be no shorter than 3-1. But this is why I love turf racing – there are enough X Factors (Simon Cowell represent, yo) where you can let speed figs take a back seat to things like trips, pace dynamics, and class.

    EdD: I’m playing the “Y” factor here. As in “Y” she won’t win. From a handicapping topics standpoint the race is interesting because people expect Winter Memories to be even more potent with a faster pace in front of her, but as we saw with Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year, that doesn’t always help.

    PTF: That sounds like a discussion for another day! I know there are exceptions, but in my view, and this depends on the individual attributes of each horse, but I’d say a faster gallop helps a good closer like 19 out of 20 times.

    EdD: When Winter Memories closed into More Than Real’s pace in the Garden City, the eventual winner was no more than five lengths from the lead. She has popped triple-digit late pace ratings (BRIS scale) in six of her eight starts and in each of her last three, but her slowest final fraction came when she ran the fastest early.

    PTF: We don’t use the same pace ratings, but I am guessing the day you had her running the fastest early was last year’s Breeders’ Cup?

    EdD: Yes.

    PTF: I have no inside information on this subject, but I have to put forth the idea that something just wasn’t right with Winter Memories that day; I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out she was a little sick or something. That’s just speculation obviously, but what I can tell you for sure, is that from a FLOW perspective, Winter Memories hasn’t had even one race this year that could be classified as being friendly to closers, not one. It’s my theory that this is why her figs are so weak. You can only run so fast overall when the pace is dawdling early.

    EdD: If she does too much to try to keep up with Summer Soiree on the front end, then that will dull her closing kick, not help it. She can come home in ten seconds after running six furlongs in 1:16, but what if she has to do it in 1:12?

    PTF: I agree that it would be a mistake to attempt to lay close, and it shouldn’t be necessary. I expect nothing less than an honest gallop here. Another crucial reason why I like Winter Memories in this spot is that in her last few races, she has fallen victim to a lot of completely fair race riding by other jocks – spots taken, hemmed in. With more on the line today in a more competitive race, it’s my feeling the boys will be more worried about their own mounts than on Winter Memories. I expect her to run her best race in the QE2.

    EdD: I enjoy multiple-race wagers such as the pick four most, so it’s not inconceivable that I could still use Winter Memories in certain sequences. If I like horses in other races who are 10-, 15-to-1, etc. then I would not want to lose on a wager that included those types of winners because of Winter Memories. But in terms of the Queen Elizabeth II only, I don’t like enough “price” horses outside of her that I would want to include her in any gimmicks. I can box a ten-cent super without her for $84 and a $.50 tri for $105. I’m not sure I’ll do exactly that because it’s the type of race I’ll have a strong enough opinion on some key horses while beating the favorite, but on speed figures alone she does not figure to be in any of the exotics.
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