10/17/2009 5:30PM


Email Jonathan Sheppard was asked if he was discouraged with the performance of champion turf mare Forever Together last weekend in the First Lady Stakes at Keeneland. After all, the mare was sustaining a second straight defeat, and third in four starts this year. She lagged far back early, under Julien Leparoux, and came on at the end to be third, 1 1/2 lengths back of Diamondrella. It was fair to wonder if this was the same Forever Together who won the 2008 First Lady and then came right back to take the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita. On Nov. 6, she will try to become the first horse to win the race in consecutive years. "I thought she ran absolutely brilliantly," Sheppard said of the First Lady. "Even she couldn’t quite make up the 25 lengths she was asked to in the last half mile. She made up 23 ½ of them I think." Sheppard was exaggerating, but only a little bit. The chart will show Forever Together about 21 lengths back at the half. Still, champions are supposed to overcome such circumstances, aren't they? "I guess that’s what the jockey was thinking," Sheppard replied. "He was extremely frustrated after the race. He was sort of blaming another horse through the early part of the race who was at the back of the pack directly to his outside, trying to keep him pinned down in there for longer than he wanted. It seemed every time he tried to sort of slow up slightly to try to ease out behind the other horse slowed up to. My recollection is that this was true through the stretch run the first time and around the turn. But once they got halfway down the backside I thought we were clear last on our own, with room to get out and start moving up a little bit. He chose not to do that and I don’t know why." For better or worse, champions who stay in training do business with a bullseye splashed on their every appearance. "That’s it exactly," Sheppard said. "When you get beat, something terrible must have happened. ‘Jeez, what happened to Forever Together?!’ That’s why people come out in the afternoon to see them run. They’re not machines, and neither are the riders." So, it's on to California with the defending BCF&MT champ. The conservative Sheppard was asked for a tout. "I think she’s as good as she’s ever been." I'll take that as a yes.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Dan: I would be doing this to appease the more casual fans who don't follow the sport like we do as well as those at Disney, who as noted probably are privately wanting to put massive pressure on Jackson to run Rachel in the BC. The turf to me would have been the compromise. Also, there was a time when if you had a top horse, in the days before the BC your last start of the year, whether your horse liked turf or not was the Washington DC International at Laurel going 1 1/2 miles on the grass in early-mid November. Even horses like Riva Ridge, who hated the slop (that likely cost him the Triple Crown in 1972) went in the DC International over very soft going and finished up the track in that because that was how you were supposed to do it. This would simply be a throwback to that era with regard to Rachel, something I'm sure a lot of the REAL old timers who remember when horses truly danced every dance would have appreciated.
dan c More than 1 year ago
Walt P I couldnt disagree more but that is for another place and time, no way would you bring a $100 million filly across the country to run on rubber or turf its just stupid she is a speed horse and as we have seen over and over again in graded stakes around 2 turns on rubber speed horses dont win. Turf horses and dead closers win. Anyway......I think J Shepard is exactly right I noticed live that FT was boxed in on the backside and Julien waited WAY too long to get her out. She will be a bigger price now which I like cause she will win , well , unless Dar Re Mi runs...or Shariska.....
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Bringing over from the last blog, where MSComeonNow said: >>Jess Jackson cares about one thing, himself. His ranting about track surface has been way overboard. To not come because you are worried about losing is one thing, but to saw its unsafe for his horse is absurd. He was'nt too worried about running on the rock hard sealed track at Monmouth that had breakdowns earlier in the day and numerous late scratches.>> And as I remember, it was largely in part the breakdown George Washington suffered in the Classic that (along with NYRA's franchise situation and Churchill at the time having no interest in hosting the BC) prompted BC Ltd. to give Santa Anita two straight Breeders Cups, especially since at the time as I recall the Euros stated they would not come if the BC were on a traditional dirt surface. The problem was the kowtowing to the Euros that caused this. As said elsewhere, if I had Rachel, I would be looking at the BC Turf with her by first going in the Jamaica at Belmont a week ago Saturday (10/10), as that was a race that she probably would have had an easy time with as long as she handled the turf. As long as she came out in good order, I would then have put her in the 1 1/2 Mile BC Turf, where yes, she would have had to deal with Precious Passion, but I think she would in that scenario been able to ignore PP for the early stages, let him do his thing on the front end and then gone after him with about a half-mile or so to go. This way, she's in the BC, appeasing those at The Walt Disney Co. who I suspect privately would be wanting to pressure Jackson into running Rachel in the BC, and at the same time giving me a chance to shut up critics who want to see Rachel go the classic distances (even if in this case it would be on turf). I suspect she would be able to handle 1 1/2 Miles on turf, and this to me would be a case where Rachel would have nothing to lose by trying the BC Turf.