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2023 Winter Memories Stakes Preview | Soviet Excess Seeks Breakthrough Victory
Aqueduct turf racing (NYRA)

2023 Winter Memories Stakes Preview | Soviet Excess Seeks Breakthrough Victory

Wertheimer and Frere’s graded stakes-placed Kentucky homebred Soviet Excess will look to notch her first stakes victory on the heels of a closing third-place effort in the Grade 2 Lake Placid when she takes on Friday’s $135,000 Winter Memories, a one-mile inner turf test for sophomore fillies, at Belmont at the Big A.

The Winter Memories, named for Phillips Racing Partnership’s homebred multiple graded stakes-winner trained by Jimmy Toner, is slated as Race 8 on Friday’s nine-race card. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern. 

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Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who will also send out St. Elias Stable’s Junipermarshmallow, Soviet Excess was a game third in the 1 1/16-mile Lake Placid on August 19 at Saratoga Race Course. The Uncle Mo bay, sent to post at odds of 28-1, launched an impressive closing kick under Dylan Davis, rallying from last-of-8 to pick off rivals in the stretch and settle for show honors two lengths back of the victorious Aspray and a head back of runner-up Surge Capacity. The effort produced a co-field-best 89 Beyer Speed Figure.

“She came back well. I thought she had a good effort,” said Pletcher. “She was game in the end and just couldn’t quite get there in time. She’s been pretty consistent.”

Soviet Excess entered from a third in her stakes debut in the one-mile Wild Applause in May at Belmont Park. Earlier this year, she finished second by a half-length at third asking to subsequent graded stakes-winner Queen Picasso in a March maiden at Gulfstream Park before graduating in her next start by 1 3/4 lengths going one-mile and 70 yards over Gulfstream’s synthetic. She doubled up on wins in May with a stalking 1 1/2-length optional claiming score over firm Gulfstream green.

Soviet Excess boasts a lifetime record of 7-2-2-2 and earnings of $125,700. She is out of the stakes-placed Tapit mare Westit, whose second dam, the Pletcher-trained Ocean Drive, is a multiple graded stakes-winning half-sister to multimillionaire Sun King.

Davis retains the mount from post 7.

St. Elias Stable’s homebred Junipermarshmallow [post 9, Javier Castellano] made her first start off an eight-month layoff in the Lake Placid, where she finished a well-beaten eighth after racing 1 1/2 lengths off the pace early and fading throughout under Jose Ortiz. It was the first loss in three starts for the Quality Road dark bay, who won on debut in October at Keeneland over subsequent multiple stakes-winner Botanical.

She made a successful stakes debut next out in the Wait a While sprinting 7 1/2 furlongs at Gulfstream, notching the victory by one length over stablemate Malleymoo, who went on to win the listed Penn Oaks in June at Penn National.

Pletcher said he is hopeful Junipermarshmallow will improve with a start under her belt.

“I was disappointed because she had run so well in her first two races and had been training really well coming into [the Lake Placid],” said Pletcher. “She kind of got hung out wide and was a bit fresh, so she’s come back and trained well. It was [a tall order] and the reason we tried it was because she had been training so well. I think it’s a throw-out race.”

The royally-bred Junipermarshmallow is out of the winning Danehill Dancer mare Elitiste, who is a half-sister to 2018 Cartier Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Alpha Centauri, as well as multiple group-winner Alpine Star.

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Chad Brown has entered four contenders as he vies for back-to-back wins in this event after taking last year’s running with Salimah. Leading the quartet is Klaravich Stables’ graded stakes-placed Tax Implications [post 8, Manny Franco], who finished a closing fourth in the Lake Placid a neck behind Soviet Excess.

The Mehmas bay has finished a close second in a trio of stakes since last fall, beginning with a length loss to stablemate Implicated in the Chesley Flower in October. She returned eight months later to post a runner-up effort, beaten three-quarter lengths, in the Wild Applause behind stablemate and fellow Winter Memories aspirant Liguria. Before another runner-up effort by the same margin in the Grade 3 Lake George on July 21 at the Spa behind the Brown-trained Surge Capacity.

Alpha Delta Stables’ Liguria [post 1, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] finished an even fifth in the Lake George after a six-wide trip in the final turn under Flavien Prat. The War Front bay is the lone graded winner in the field after taking last year’s Grade 3 Jimmy Durante at Del Mar before a five-month layoff. She returned this year to finish a close fifth in the Grade 2 Edgewood at Churchill Downs ahead of her conquest in the Wild Applause. Liguria won her only start over the Big A turf when taking a maiden special weight at second asking in October.

Richard Schermerhorn’s Lady Beth [post 10, Flavien Prat] makes her return to the races after a nearly four-month layoff, entering from a third-place effort in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Soaring Softly on May 27, which was won by the aforementioned Queen Picasso. The daughter of Hard Spun won on debut in February when traveling one-mile and 70 yards over the Gulfstream synthetic and was a $390,000 purchase at last year’s OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.

Rounding out the Brown-trained tetrad is Bradley Thoroughbreds, Laura Leigh Stable, Jim Cone, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Team Hanley and Cambron Equine’s Get Your Kicks [post 14 AE, Kendrick Carmouche], who, if she draws in, would make her stakes debut off a fourth in a May optional claimer traveling 1 1/16 miles at Belmont.

The Quality Road bay finished a distant fourth in her February debut over the Gulfstream main track, but relished a switch to turf to graduate by five lengths at second asking in April. The $300,000 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase is out of the multiple stakes-winning Eskendereya mare Cali Thirty Seven.

Black Type Thoroughbreds, Swinbank Stables, Steve Adkisson, Christopher T. Dunn and Anthony Spinazzola’s multiple graded stakes-placed Sacred Wish [post 3, John Velazquez] makes her turf debut for conditioner George Weaver after a distant off-the-board finish in the Grade 1 Alabama presented by Keeneland Sales on August 19.

This Not This Time dark bay graduated in March at Gulfstream for her former conditioner Lynn Chleborad and made a good impression in her stakes debut when second to Affirmative Lady in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in April on debut for Weaver. Two starts later, she nearly sprung an upset over post-time favorite Wet Paint in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks when leading by open lengths at the top of the lane, but was caught by that foe just before the wire and was defeated a neck in the prestigious nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies.

Out of the Indian Charlie mare Indian Wish, Sacred Wish is a half-sister to Wishful Winking, who won traveling the Winter Memories distance over the Santa Anita Park turf in 2016. Sacred Wish was purchased for $50,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

Completing the field are Bolivie [post 2, Feargal Lynch], a last-out winner of Laurel Park’s Searching for conditioner Brendan Walsh; stakes-placed Neecie Marie [post 4, Abner Adorno] for conditioner Butch Reid, Jr.; New York-bred stakes-winner Silver Skillet [post 5, Joel Rosario] for conditioner Christophe Clement; and stakes-winner Sweetlou’sgotaces [post 6, Trevor McCarthy] for trainer Graham Motion.

Lifelovenlaughter, Plentitude and Stephanie’s Charm are listed as also-eligible. Ichiban and Balpool have been entered for the main track-only.