04/10/2009 11:00PM

Forever Together runs like a champ


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Forever Together picked up right where she left off. Rallying from well off a relaxed pace, the Eclipse Award-winning turf mare of 2008 swept to a convincing victory Saturday in her first race of the year, the Grade 2, $200,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland.

Owned by the Augustin Stable and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, Forever Together completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.93 over a turf course rated good. Julien Leparoux, her main jockey during her championship season, was back aboard.

"She made it easy," Leparoux said. "Every time you ask her to do something, she does it. We didn't want to change anything in the way I ride her. She was much the best."

Forever Together, a 5-year-old gray mare by Belong to Me, returned $4 as the favorite in a field of seven fillies and mares.

I Lost My Choo set fractions of 25.92 seconds, 51.83, and 1:17.12 over a course soaked by Friday rain. Once the field began to bunch nearing the quarter pole, she had no punch, while Forever Together, sixth early, had the most momentum when looping the field.

Down the stretch, Rutherienne briefly matched strides while racing inside of Forever Together, but strong hand urging from Leparoux put the issue to rest. The final margin was a length, with Rutherienne, the 2008 Jenny Wiley winner, saving second by a neck over Kiss With a Twist.

Forever Together won her first three career starts, then lost four in a row before Sheppard spotted her on the turf for the first time last May. Since then, her stock has skyrocketed as she won 3 of 4 to close out her 4-year-old season, culminating with a win in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in late October.

"She's got more confidence now, more poise," Sheppard said. "I think she knows she's special now."

Commonwealth: Eternal Star foils repeat bid

Eternal Star ($13.20) settled smoothly down the backstretch, then angled out for a winning drive in the 23rd running of the Grade 2, $203,500 Commonwealth Stakes.

Owned by Harry and Tom Meyerhoff and based at Laurel Park with trainer Michael Trombetta, Eternal Star prevailed by three-quarters of a length over late-closing Rebellion, the defending champion and 2-1 favorite.

"I really had a perfect trip," winning jockey Eibar Coa said. "He really showed up today."

Ravalo and My Pal Charlie contested the early pace, with Eternal Star a clear third. Down the stretch, Eternal Star proved best, finishing seven furlongs in 1:21.17 over Polytrack.

"This horse is very versatile," said Trombetta. "He just does his thing."

Eternal Star, beaten a head when second in the Grade 3 Toboggan at Aqueduct in his previous outing, now has won 10 of 21 starts. The Commonwealth was his sixth stakes win but his first in a graded race. A 5-year-old son of Five Star Day, Eternal Star has earned $605,920.

Rebellion, making his first start in more than four months, closed from fifth in a sharp return.

"I thought he ran great," said trainer Graham Motion.

Shakertown: Heros Reward sharp in return

Heros Reward ($12.60), making his first start since the BC Turf Sprint, emerged narrowly best in a ferocious three-way battle in taking the Grade 3, $100,000 Shakertown Stakes.

Trained by Dale Capuano and ridden by Javier Castellano, Heros Reward got a good outside stalking trip, looming a threat once the field straightened away. While Chamberlain Bridge held grimly to the lead, both Heros Reward and Cannonball pushed past him in the final yards, with only two heads separating the trio.

The victory was the 11th in 29 starts, and 10th of 20 on turf, for Heros Reward, a 7-year-old Maryland-bred and -based gelding who now has earned $973,216.