By Ryan Martin, Fair Grounds Media Team:
The expectations are always high with a well-bred horse and Coffeepot Stables and Phillips Racing Partnerships’ Winter Sunset ($7.40, $3.20 and $2.40) took her connections’ hopes and aspirations up a notch with a victory in Saturday’s $60,000 Shantel Lanerie Memorial Overnight Stakes.
Guided by jockey Channing Hill, the 3-year-old daughter of Tapit broke a step slow coming out of the gate while Cypress Point took command of the race through slow fractions of 26.10 and 52.23. Winter Sunset was caught six wide around the far turn and took the lead at the top of the stretch. Graded stakes winner and post time favorite Elsa ($2.20 and $2.10) battled her down the stretch with light contact being made, but Winter Sunset was able to keep her foe at bay, edge clear and win under a hand ride by 1½ lengths in a time of 1:42.34. Elsa finished second and Naughty Me ($4.00) got up for third. Cypress Point and Red Rounder completed the order of finish.
The inquiry sign was posted not long after the race was completed due to some light interference between the top two finishers down the stretch, but after only a few minutes of observation the inquiry was dismissed by the track stewards.
“I really thought I had the best horse so I figured I could do whatever I wanted to,” Hill said. “Obviously those aren’t the circumstances that you want to be in but I wasn’t concerned. When I was a length away from (Elsa) I kind of treated it like a public workout. I thought our filly a little something. This is by far one of the best turf horses period that I’ve been around. Even today, she was a little green about coming home. I figured that she had it at the top of the lane but when she poured it on at the eighth pole, that’s what was impressive.”
Trained by Wayne Catalano, Winter Sunset is the daughter and granddaughter of two dual Grade I winners on grass. Her mother Winter Memories took the Garden City Stakes (2011) and Diana Stakes (2012) while grand dam Memories of Silver won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (1996) and the Beverly D. Stakes (1997).
Winter Sunset is now unbeaten in two career starts. Prior to taking the Shantel Lanerie Memorial Overnight Stakes, she broke her maiden in November over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course in gate-to-wire fashion by 4¼ lengths.
“She stepped slow away from there but that comes with inexperience,” Catalano said. “She’s only run once. She didn’t break real sharp. I was not worried, actually. We thought all along that she’s a good one. Obviously when you have the pedigree that she has, everyone thinks high hopes but she still has to go out there and do it, and she has.”
Catalano has some high ambitions for his rising star and will discuss her next move with the owners.
Winter Sunset’s career earnings were enhanced to $61,200 after banking $38,400 from the win.
“We’ll talk things over with Mr. (Bob) Cummings and Annette (Bacola) and obviously Mr. John Phillips and we’ll make a decision,” Catalano said.
Winter Sunset was bred in Kentucky by co-owners Phillips Racing Partnership.
The Shantel Lanerie Memorial Overnight Stakes is named in honor of the late wife of jockey Corey Lanerie, who passed away following a battle with breast cancer in June 2018. She held several positions at the racetracks while her husband was race riding including serving as a tab writer with the clocker at Lone Star Park, a mutuel clerk at Fair Grounds and a photographer’s assistant at Churchill Downs.