It was announced in the Blood Horse on August 9th that the fan favorite Winter Memories was retired due to a degenerative bone disease. The news was disheartening, to say the least.
I felt compelled to write a little something to a horse who I have followed for three years of her campaign. This is not just any horse — This is Winter Memories.
We first met in 2010, which on a personal level was one of the best years of my life. You where just a maiden then, but you where a gorgeous and huge roan, and I am a softy for greys. Even then at the age of two, you showed your devastating turn of foot at the sixteenth pole and put away Town Flirt (and also the perennial challenger Hungry Island, and Buster’s Ready). A love affair began right then and there.
Through the years, you always would seem to find trouble, I think it was just part of your flare, a part of the show. You would get in tight, or get into a position that seems absolutely impossible to overcome, and you still would win. What I love most about you is girl, you got game!
I will always remember your Garden City. It was one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen, and have written about it several times. I drove 8 hours and almost 500 miles — just to watch you. I was shooting the turn of the race, which means I have the 600mm lens (which weighs in excess of 20 pounds and is a bazooka). When you turned for home, it appeared as if there was no hope. You where behind a wall of top horses, and you had no where to go. At about the point where I was at the top of the stretch, I watched you check, and check again. Then, something magical happened. I saw you get angled out, and turned the camera and caught the beginnings of that knockout turn of foot you have. There was screaming at the monitors as you traversed that long Belmont stretch, gobbling up ground and picking them off one by one. I fondly remember doing my best Carlton Fisk circa 1975 World Series impression trying as I may to wave you home — while I was skipping down the lane with the huge camera. When you hit the wire…. I ran so hard and so fast down the stretch to take your picture. It was one of those days where everything worked out according to plan. What a great memory you left me.
I was there for your dreadful Lake Placid, your domination of the Lake George, and your runner up effort in the Just A Game, and what would be your last race, the Diana. You where just so fun to watch, and so fun to be around. These memories are now but a blur, but a blur of positivity.
I am so glad that I was able to bear witness to your final race, in which yet again your turn of foot was so evident as you swished your tail as if to wave goodbye to the field. I was on the inside rail, unable to see the monitors at all. I was hoping to see a grey blur emerge from behind the tote board — and sure enough I heard Tom Durkin yelling your name. I had the biggest cheshire cat grin on my face, and to see you come into view just brought so much joy in my life. I can be seen on the replay, what I am glad did not make the replay is me jumping up and down screaming. We are all professionals, but ever so often there comes a horse in which you can relate to on some weird and esoteric level that is beyond comprehension or words.
When I heard the news of your retirement, I toasted a glass of Cabernet to you — for the memories you have given me that are so much more than photos. It’s about what they represent. They represent a soul who is a hard knocker, who tries, who may be bested today but always comes back with a fiery vengeance. These attributes, among so many others are why so many of us loved you so dear. You will be sorely, sorely missed on the track. I look forward to watching your offspring run — hope springs eternal. Thank you so much for changing my life. Thank you for teaching me to believe in myself, thank you for being you.
I will leave you with a few other photos I have taken over the years, as well as the video replay of one of the greatest races my eyes have ever seen.
And last but not least, this is how I will always remember you, you beautiful, beautiful creature. Regal, enjoying life, and on top of the world.