07/28/2009 11:00PM

Forever Together seeks Diana repeat

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Barbara D. Livingston
Quality Road (left), with John Velazquez up, drills five furlongs in company Wednesday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Forever Together and her trainer, Jonathan Sheppard, were out at the Oklahoma training track seemingly forever on Wednesday morning.

The Eclipse Award-winning mare's final workout for a defense of her title in Saturday's Grade 1 Diana Handicap was delayed more than 20 minutes while the horse ambulance attended to, and ultimately vanned off, a member of trainer George Weaver's stable who had been injured during a workout over the Oklahoma turf course.

Forever Together was taken for a leisurely stroll under the trees just beyond the outside fence of the Oklahoma main track by Sheppard while patiently awaiting her turn to breeze. After the turf course re-opened for business, Forever Together jogged once around before breaking off at the five-furlong pole full of run. She blistered her first three-eighths of a mile over the very firm strip in a somewhat shocking 33.38 seconds and completed five-eighths in 57.60.

Shortly thereafter, Forever Together was one of 10 fillies and mares entered for the Diana, which will share top billing on Saturday's program with the Jim Dandy.

"She went off a little quick, but the idea was to put a little zip into her after having a number of long, slow breezes on the farm," Sheppard said. "We already know she's got the stamina. She came up here Saturday evening, and I would have preferred to work her yesterday [Tuesday] - four days out from the race would have been better than three - but the turf course wasn't open, so we didn't have much choice in the matter."

Sheppard said Forever Together, who is coming off a troubled second-place finish in the Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont on June 6, barely turned a hair while waiting out the long delay.

"She's a very calm filly, it didn't bother her at all," Sheppard said. "Some horses might have gotten hot and washy while waiting that long, but not her."

Forever Together drew post 10 for the Diana. She'll carry high weight of 123 pounds, with regular rider Julien Leparoux aboard. Her competition, from the rail out, consists of Mushka (John Velazquez), Quiet Meadow (Jose Lezcano), Rutherienne (Alan Garcia), Indescribable (Kent Desormeaux), Criticism (Javier Castellano), Carribean Sunset (Ramon Dominguez), My Princess Jess (Cornelio Velasquez), Colina Verde (Robby Albarado), and Tejida (Corey Nakatani). Rutherienne, third behind Forever Together in the 2008 Diana, and Carribean Sunset are trained by Christophe Clement but will race uncoupled if both start.

Danielle Hodsdon, who Sheppard calls his "jack of all trades," worked Forever Together on Wednesday. Hodsdon is one of the leading riders on the steeplechase circuit and will handle a number of assignments in the jumper races during the meet for Sheppard.

"Danielle was the top steeplechase rider in North America three years ago and is among the leaders in the standings this year," Sheppard said. "Besides riding steeplechase races and working horses, she's also one of my assistants and helps keep all of us in line at the barn when the need arises."

Vineyard Haven ahead of schedule

Vineyard Haven, last year's Hopeful winner, reaffirmed his fondness for Saratoga's main track Wednesday morning as he drilled a half-mile in 46.88 seconds, the fastest of 51 works at the distance. Afterward, his connections declared him "ahead of schedule" and said he could possibly return in the Grade 1 King's Bishop on Aug. 29.

"He's really come around pretty quickly," said Rick Mettee, who oversees Godolphin Stable's New York string for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "He really enjoyed getting back on dirt at Belmont, and it looked like he worked over this track every bit as good."

Though Vineyard Haven has not run since finishing fourth in the UAE 2000 Guineas on Feb. 12, Mettee said it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could return in the King's Bishop, which could come up extremely tough this year.

"We'll nominate to the King's Bishop, he should be fit enough to run seven furlongs, it's just a matter of whether if we want to stick him in there off a layoff," Mettee said.

Also working for Godolphin on Wednesday was Regal Ransom, who went three furlongs in 36.45. It was his first breeze since he suffered inflammation in the tendon in the back of a hock, commonly called a popped curb, which forced him to scratch from the Woody Stephens at Belmont on June 5.

Regal Ransom, who won the UAE Derby, has not run since finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby.

"It's good to get him back on the work tab," said Mettee, who caught the horse slower than the clockers did. "He's always been a good little workhorse. It's hard to say what an objective could be for his return. We'll step right up to a half-mile next time."

Quality Road gets final drill for comeback

Quality Road finished his major preparations for his much anticipated return in Monday's Grade 2 Amsterdam when working five furlongs in 59.38 seconds along with stablemate Senor Fuego on Wednesday. Jockey John Velazquez was aboard Quality Road, who posted splits of 12.12, 24.34, 35.47, and 46.73 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.29 while in hand much of the way.

"That worked out very well," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "Up to now, everything is in good order, and barring any problems he's ready to go on Monday."

Quality Road, who has not started since winning the Grade 1 Florida Derby, will face a field that is expected to include Cabaret Cowboy, Capt. Candyman Can, Captain Cherokee, Custom for Carlos, Everyday Heroes, and Just Ben.

Fearless Cowboy now with McLaughlin

Fearless Cowboy, winner of the Colin Stakes at Woodbine on July 18, has been sold privately to David Lanzman and Jeff Singer and has been turned over to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Lanzman is best known as the owner of I Want Revenge, this year's Wood Memorial winner, while Singer campaigned the graded stakes winner Teuflesberg. Fearless Cowboy, a son of El Corredor, won the Colin at Woodbine after finishing second in the Victoria Stakes, also at Woodbine in June.

He is being pointed to the Grade 2 Saratoga Special here Aug. 20.

Secret Gypsy's next start undecided

Secret Gypsy, winner of the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct earlier this year, worked a half-mile in 47.09 seconds over the main track with jockey Robby Albarado aboard Wednesday. Secret Gypsy is perfect in two starts at Saratoga, having registered a sensational debut win here at 2 and a first-level allowance victory when returning to upstate New York last summer. She has not started since finishing a distant ninth after pressing the pace in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on Derby Day at Churchill Downs.

"We gave her a little break for a month and we're not sure what we're going to do with her yet," trainer Ronny Werner said. "I do know that both Robby and I were pleased with the way she went this morning. She's got quite a bit of turf in her pedigree, she was entered and scratched from a one-mile grass race early this summer at Lone Star, and we do want to try the grass with her at some point."

* Honour Devil, winner of last year's UAE Derby, was scratched from Wednesday's James Marvin Stakes after developing a temperature, McLaughlin said.

Honour Devil, a 5-year-old son of Honour and Glory, has not run since finishing second in a Group 3 Stakes at Nad Al Sheba in March.

* Franny Freud, one of four horses that scratched out of Wednesday's Grade 3 Schuylerville, worked five furlongs in 59.77 seconds Wednesday morning in company with the older New York-bred stakes winner Underserviced.

John Terranova, the trainer of Franny Freud, said he and owner Paul Pompa Jr. opted to wait to tackle graded stakes competition.

"We just want to consider a couple of other avenues with her. We're looking at other spots," Terranova said. "She's doing wonderfully, but we didn't think this was the time to take on these type of fillies just yet."

- additional reporting by David Grening