10/24/2008 12:00AM

Forever Together up in final strides


ARCADIA, Calif. – Since his breakthrough season in 2006, the year he won the Eclipse Award as the outstanding apprentice jockey, Julien Leparoux has thrived with horses rallying from off the pace.

That style proved most valuable in Friday’s $1,951,080 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita. Leparoux guided Forever Together from eighth in the final furlong to an impressive win. The victory was Forever Together’s third Grade 1 win of the year, clinching the Eclipse Award title as the outstanding turf female.

None of it seemed certain until the final strides.

Owned by George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stable and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, Forever Together ($11.80) rallied five wide to wear down Wait a While and win by three-quarters of a length, finishing 1?1/4 miles on turf in 2:01.58.

Sealy Hill, the 2007 Canadian Horse of the Year, finished second at 48-1, a head in front of Wait a While, who led in the final furlong and was beaten less than a length. Visit, who snuck through along the rail to lead briefly in the stretch, finished fourth, followed by Mauralakana, Halfway to Heaven (the 5-2 favorite), Dynaforce, Folk Opera, and Pure Clan.

Leparoux said that Forever Together needed two rallies in the final three furlongs. He urged her on the final turn, but was outkicked briefly by Mauralakana, the winner of the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park in August. When the field neared the stretch, Leparoux asked Forever Together again and immediately got the response he wanted.

“I just waited a little more into the stretch and then asked her to kick,” Leparoux said.

Forever Together trailed Visit by approximately 3 1/2 lengths in midstretch, but caught the eye quickly in the final furlong. “She fought all the way and she was the best filly,” Leparoux said.

The Filly and Mare Turf was the first time that Forever Together had tried the distance of 1 1/4 miles, and she handled it with little difficulty, beating a field that included six other Grade 1 or Group 1 winners.

“I thought with the firm ground and the tighter turns [at Santa Anita], the extra ground wouldn’t be a problem,” Sheppard said.

Forever Together gave Sheppard his first Breeders’ Cup win.

“It does mean a lot to have this on your resume,” he said.

Sealy Hill made her last start, according to owner Eugene Melynk.

Forever Together, who has won half of her 14 starts and $2,004,533, will race next year, Strawbridge said.

“If she’s physically well and she looks physically well to me today, she’ll run as a 5-year-old,” Strawbridge said. “I’d like to keep her racing for one more year.”