Memories of the Diana will never be in short supply for trainer Jimmy Toner.
In 1998, he saddled the victorious Memories of Silver for the Diana, then a Grade II with a $300,000 purse. It was her next-to-last race and her final win.
He sent out her daughter, Winter Memories, for Saturday’s renewal, the Grade I $600,000 Diana, and she followed in her dam’s footsteps to win by 11⁄2 lengths. Under jockey Javier Castellano, she closed with a kick that left no doubt of the approaching finish, overcoming pacesetter Tapitsfly, who was unable to tear away from the field through the 11⁄8 miles over a good inner turf course.
“There was no pace. I think we were closer due to the fact of the way the race was shaping up,” Toner said. “I just left it in Javi’s hands and said, ‘Look, just do what you want to do, but I wouldn’t let her get too far away from us today.’”
In their last meeting, the one-mile Grade I Just a Game at Belmont on June 9, Tapitsfly was able to hold off Winter Memories for a wire-to-wire win. Saturday, the previous two turf races had featured wire-to-wire winners, a fact not lost on Toner.
“I was aware of that. It didn’t make me feel any better going into it,” he said. “I saw that, and I said, ‘Oh, this is not good.’ But I do think the 2 [Law of The Range] put a little pressure on that filly, and Javi just got after her a little bit sooner today. I think the ground helped us, too. These kind of horses aren’t
going to get up and open up quickly like that, too.”
Tapitsfly was on the lead with British shipper Law of The Range on her hip through the first three-quarters of a mile. A half-length back, Winter Memories and the Chad Brown-trained Zagora were paired and waiting to pounce. Another half-length back was the pair of Dream Peace and Hungry Island.
The two-by-two train was maintained until the horses were asked for more halfway through the final turn. The change by Winter Memories was sudden and decisive, as she sped to the outside of the leaders and entered the stretch with clear command, pulling away.
“It worked out great. It was amazing. She was able to cover up. She was able to finish so well today,” Castellano said. “Tapitsfly took advantage the last time [in the Just a Game]. There was not much speed in that race and it was a short distance. Today was my opportunity. My filly is a 11⁄8-mile or a 11⁄4-mile horse. She likes the two turns. She likes to cover up, and she gave me that kick.”
Dream Peace also kicked strongly through the stretch, passing the leaders to finish second, 31⁄4 lengths clear of Zagora.
“Ramon [Dominguez] gave me a giant trip on the inside. I hadn’t run her in 10 weeks; I thought I had her ready,” said Brown, a Mechanicville native. “Maybe she was just a little short, but it was a tremendous performance, and hats off to the winner.”
Zagora won the Diana last year and was attempting to become the seventh back-to-back winner and eighth two-time winner. She is a French-bred owned by Martin Schwartz who came to Brown after a successful start to her career in her home country (5-1-1 from eight starts).
Dream Peace is an Irish-bred 4-year-old who has been trained by Robert Collet, but is being transferred to Brown’s barn. Etreham Farm owner Nicolas de Chambure said he looks forward to what her North American career may bring after going 4-1-3 in 12 races overseas. She also was third in the Grade I E.P. Taylor at Woodbine in October.
“It was her first time [running] since May, so she probably needed the race,” he said. “She’s staying in America now [with Chad Brown], so hopefully we’ll be able to pick up a Grade 1 win for her. We’re very happy though, she ran a very good race.”