11/12/2011 12:41PM

Churchill Downs: Sheppard unleashes promising 2-year-old

Reed Palmer Photography
Julien Leparoux is simply along for the ride as Ever So Lucky wins his career debut at Churchill Downs on Friday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – What has it been about this Churchill Downs fall meet? Why is it that, nearly every day, some 2-year-old runs off the television screen to elicit premonitions of what might be happening here next spring in the Kentucky Derby or Oaks?

Friday, it was a Jonathan Sheppard first-time starter named Ever So Lucky who had jaws dropping in the Churchill grandstand. With leading jockey Julien Leparoux scarcely moving a muscle, the Indian Charlie colt won the eighth race by 3 1/4 lengths, returning $3.60 to win as a not-so-secret good thing following a series of scorching workouts. The colt earned a 78 Beyer Speed Figure after finishing the 6  1/2-furlong distance in 1:17.42 over a fast track.

“Jonathan likes him a lot,” Leparoux said moments after dismounting. “I breezed him the other day and could see why. He ran very big today.”

Perhaps what makes the future so intriguing for Ever So Lucky – purchased by the Augustin Stable of George Strawbridge Jr. for a sales-topping $600,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Mid-Atlantic auction in May at Timonium in Maryland – is that Sheppard is his trainer. Sheppard and Strawbridge long have been synonymous with older horses with great stamina, as opposed to precocious horses trying to make the 3-year-old classics. Sheppard, inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1990, has never run a horse in the Derby.

“I’ve had a few young horses that maybe were good enough, but for one reason or another we’ve never gotten there,” Sheppard, 70, said Saturday morning from his southeastern Pennsylvania farm. “I’m getting a little long in the tooth and I wouldn’t mind trying that at all.”

Sheppard, who left a small string of horses here with assistant Ann Sinchak, tried to be at Churchill for the race but was on canceled [Thursday] and delayed [Friday] flights out of Philadelphia that precluded him from making it here.

Sheppard said Ever So Lucky likely will ship soon to his training center in Camden, S.C., and spend “about a month there” before being vanned to Gulfstream Park before the end of the year.

“He’s a very talented horse, and we’ll look at some of the bigger races at Gulfstream if he continues to do well,” he said. “I’d say I only had him about 90 percent for that first race. He’s done everything right so far, been very impressive.”

The Ever So Lucky victory came in the wake of a slew of other powerful performances by 2-year-olds during the first half of this 21-day meet. The first Stars of Tomorrow card on opening day, Oct. 30, revealed a number of highly promising prospects, and then of course were the five Breeders’ Cup events for 2-year-olds on Nov. 4 and 5. But the procession continued unabated the following week with huge races by 2-year-olds such as Monastic, Hierro, Sacristy, and Ever So Lucky. A second Stars of Tomorrow card exclusively for 2-year-olds is set for Nov. 26, with closing day being Nov.  27.