Round 4 for Winter Memories, Hungry Island in Longines Just A Game

Story by: Jon Forbes
Source: NYRA.com

Since the summer of 2010, Winter Memories and HungryIsland have met three times, with the former maintaining a 2-1 edge. Their first showdown this year will come in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game at BelmontPark.


“I’m sure [Jimmy Toner, trainer of Winter Memories] has the same game plan I do, and hopefully neither of us have to vary off it,” said Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, conditioner of Hungry Island. “I’m sure we’re going to see each other [after the Just a Game]. That could be fun.”

The Longines Just a Game, a one-mile turf race for fillies and mares, serves as race 8 on the 13-race Belmont Stakes card and the first leg of the $1 Million Guaranteed All Graded Stakes Pick 4.

Phillips Racing Partnership’s Winter Memories is a perfect 4-for-4 at Belmont and will be making her second start in a Grade 1 at the Elmont oval, having closed with a rush to take Garden City for 3-year-olds in which HungryIsland was fourth last September. In her two previous meetings with HungryIsland, Winter Memories debuted a 1 ½-length winner in a 2010 Saratoga Race Course maiden race, in which her rival was third, and was fourth as the 2-5 favorite in the 2011 Grade 2 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid won by HungryIsland.

Freshened following a disappointing fourth in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last October, Winter Memories made a winning 4-year-old debut in her most recent start, a 2 ¼-length decision in Belmont’s 1 1/16-mile, Grade 3 Beaugay on May 5.

“She came out of the [Beaugay] very well, and she’s coming into the race as well as can be expected,” said Toner. “I think we’ll be OK with the [Just a Game’s one-mile] distance. We started out at a mile and a sixteenth at Belmont around 1 ½ turns [in the Beaugay]. So basically we’ve been pointing to this race, the Just a Game. I know the race is a mile, and that’s why we didn’t want to do two turns right off the bat with her. I don’t think cutting back to a mile will be a drawback.”

Despite Winter Memories’ and HungryIsland’s credentials, Toner did not concede the race to either filly.

“It’s a good rivalry. They’re two top fillies, but there are other fillies in the race who are just as competitive,” said Toner. “But I do know Winter Memories and HungryIsland have a little something going with each other. Grade 1s are tough races, and hopefully we’ll be there.”

Javier Castellano will be reunited with Winter Memories, who drew post position 4 and was made the 6-5 morning-line favorite.

Like Winter Memories, HungryIsland enters Saturday’s race off a victory, having won the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile on May 5 at Churchill Downs. It marked a return to winning form for HungryIsland, who was fourth in the Garden City, third in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere last November at Churchill Downs, and third behind stakes winners Marketing Mix and Inglorious in April allowance at Keeneland.

“I think part of her deal last fall was my fault,” admitted McGaughey, who trains HungryIsland for Emory A. Hamilton. “I think I ran her back too quickly in the Garden City and should have waited for the Queen Elizabeth. So I got backed up on her, and then we had bad luck in Louisville. Marketing Mix is a good filly, and she beat us [in the Mrs. Revere]. Our plan was to give her the winter off, and then the [allowance] race came up in Lexington. It was like a stakes race, but it was an allowance race and it was the first time Johnny [Velazquez] had ridden her. I think the second time [in the Distaff Turf Mile] he really knew her.”

While the Distaff Turf Mile was at the Longines Just a Game’s one-mile distance, McGaughey thinks HungryIsland is better going longer.

“I don’t think a mile is her best distance, but I’m looking forward to running her Saturday and I’m looking forward to stretching her out,” said McGaughey.

Velazquez will once again ride 5-2 second choice HungryIsland, who drew post 5.

Also exiting the Distaff Turf Mile is Frank L. Jones, Jr.’s Tapitsfly, who was second that day. The 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine annexed her first graded stakes earlier in 2012, taking Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2 Honey Fox in March and going on to finish third in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in April.

Tapitsfly, 3-1, will depart from the rail with Ramon Dominguez aboard.

The Longines Just a Game field also includes Sylvestris, a seven-length winner of a May 11 optional claimer at Belmont; Wallis, who took last year’s Spice Island overnight stakes at Aqueduct; Dancinginherdreams, a Grade 2 winner on dirt who enters Saturday’s race off an optional claiming score on turf at Churchill Downs; and Up In Time, who has won multiple graded stakes on grass in California.

 

The field for the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game:

PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

Odds

1

Tapitsfly (KY)

R A Dominguez

120

D L Romans

3-1

2

Sylvestris (IRE)

M E Smith

118

R Barbara

20-1

3

Wallis (GB)

J Lezcano

118

C Clement

15-1

4

Winter Memories (KY)

J Castellano

120

J J Toner

6-5

5

Hungry Island (KY)

J R Velazquez

120

C R McGaughey III

5-2

6

Dancinginherdreams (KY)

C S Nakatani

118

W I Mott

12-1

7

Up In Time (GB)

J Rosario

118

S Callaghan

12-1