In only her third start on grass, the Sheppard-trained Forever Together barreled from last to surge past Dynaforce in deep stretch, posting a three-quarters of a length victory to earn a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf as part of the “Win and You’re In” series.
Rounding the turn, Leparoux, aboard the gray filly for the first time, swung her to the outside and she responded with a rousing late run that carried her past the front-runners to hit the wire in 1:46.52 for the nine furlongs.
“I was last, but it was nothing spectacular,” said Leparoux. “I mean, she was last, relaxed, and around the stretch I thought to make a move and come inside. When I got her out, she just took off.”
Rutherienne was three and one-half lengths behind Dynaforce in third, followed by Vacare, Lady Digby, Bayou’s Lassie, favored Wait a While, Criminologist, Bit of Whimsy, and Chestoria.
“She didn’t run like we thought she was going to,” said Todd Pletcher, trainer of the beaten favorite, who was in contention at the top of the stretch but flattened out. “We’re going to take her back to the barn and make sure everything is okay.”
Owned by Augustin Stable, Forever Together spent the early part of her career on dirt, winning the Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park last March. When she failed to win her next five starts on dirt, Sheppard switched her to the turf and she came up with a good-looking victory over a yielding course at Arlington Park in May. In her next start, as the longshot in the field, she came from last to finish third, beaten but a length and a half, in the Grade 1 Just A Game at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day.
“I suppose if you run a superb race at 45-1, one might think it was a fluke,” said Sheppard of her performance in the Just A Game. “We always thought she would like the turf.
“We seemed to have a preponderance of turf horses in the barn, and if we find one that seems to be doing okay on the dirt, it gives us some diversity … [but] whatever we do, we seem to wind up in the same spot.”
With the winner’s purse of $300,000 Forever Together, who returned $20 for a $2 win bet, more than doubled her earnings to $575,300 and extended her record to five wins in 11 starts. With her having qualified for the 11-furlong Filly & Mare Turf at Oak Tree at Santa Anita on Friday, October 24, Sheppard said he would like to find a spot for her to stretch out between now and then.
“You would like a mile and a quarter race in between,” he said. “The [Grade 1, $600,000] Flower Bowl Invitational [September 27 at Belmont Park] might be such a race.”
Winning trainer Jonathan Sheppard of Forever Together (No. 8): “We seemed to have a preponderance of turf horses in the barn, and if we find one that seems to be doing okay on the dirt, it gives us some diversity. Mr. (George) Strawbridge jokes, `Why do we have nothing but turf horses?’ and not we have another one. Whatever we do, we seem to wind up in the same spot.
“As far as depth goes, this race was solid. Every race had good credentials. I picked up the paper today and four of the horses picked over her, she had beaten in her last start. I suppose if you run a superb race at 45-1, one might think it was a fluke.
“Going from a mile and an eighth to 11 furlongs [Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, October 24], you would like a mile and a quarter race somewhere in between. The Flower Bowl might be such a race [Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational, fillies and mares, 3 and up, 10 furlongs, Belmont Park, September 27].”
Winning jockey Julien Leparoux: “I was last [early] but it was nothing spectacular. I mean, she was last, relaxed and around the stretch I thought to make a move and come inside. When I got her out, she just took off. So, that was very good.
“It was a very tough field. I think, for me, she won very easily today. The (turf) is fair for everybody, I think, so that won't be an excuse, for anybody. I think she’s a very nice filly.”
Bill Mott, trainer of runner-up Dynaforce (No. 2): “She ran her heart out. She was in great position. She was where we wanted her, right behind the pace. She just got caught in the end.”
Todd Pletcher, trainer of favored Wait a While (No. 4): “She didn’t run like we thought she was going to. We’re going to take her back to the barn and make sure everything is okay.”
Rafael Bejarano, jockey of Wait a While: Declined to comment.
NOTES: With the victory, Forever Together automatically qualifies for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, Friday, October 24. . . This is the second Diana winner for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who won this race in 1993 with Ratings, who was also owned by George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stables. . . Dynaforce, who ran second, ended a three-race win streak in the Diana for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.