08/01/2009 12:00AM

Forever Together repeats the feat

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Barbara D. Livingston
Forever Together (10) challenges Carribean Sunset in the stretch and holds on by a head to win the Diana.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Jonathan Sheppard walked the Saratoga turf course during training hours on Saturday morning, making sure the footing was safe enough to allow his Eclipse Award winner Forever Together to compete later that afternoon in the $500,000 Diana. Unfortunately for Forever Together's nine rivals in the Diana, Sheppard found the course to be just fine.

Several hours later, Forever Together set foot over the same course, and as she did last summer rallied from the rear of the pack to register a narrow victory.

Becoming the sixth horse to win back-to-back editions of the Grade 1 event, Forever Together got up by a head over a game Carribean Sunset. Rutherienne rallied belatedly to finish third in this race for the second consecutive year.

Forever Together rated nearly a dozen lengths off the early pace of Quiet Meadow under confident handling by regular rider Julien Leparoux. She commenced her rally while kept wide leaving the backstretch, quickly surged to catch Carribean Sunset near the sixteenth pole, then maintained a narrow advantage to the wire.

Carribean Sunset was prominent throughout, steadied briefly entering the stretch, gained a narrow advantage a furlong from home and continued on bravely once headed by the winner. Rutherienne was trapped behind horses to midstretch and finished with good energy once finally in the clear.

Forever Together, who registered a three-quarter-length victory over Dynaforce in the 2008 Diana, carried co-highweight of 123 pounds to her ninth victory in 17 starts and fourth Grade 1 win. She covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.21 over a good course and paid $3.90.

"I think Julien sensed they were getting a little too strung out and eased her up into striking position sooner than usual," said Sheppard, who trains Forever Together for the Augustin Stables. "She made the front quickly and easily and after that I'm not sure if she got to loafing and relaxed a bit or the other filly on the inside was coming on again. Considering she hadn't run in a while and was giving weight to the other horses I thought it was an outstanding performance."

* Chestoria returned to restricted company and made the most of the opportunity by rallying to a half-length victory over Stormy Relations in the $75,250 Lake Luzerne Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares. Chestoria was ridden to victory by Rajiv Maragh for trainer William Badgett Jr. and returned $7.60.