12/26/2008 12:00AM

Forever Together targets similar campaign in '09


MIAMI - Trainer Jonathan Sheppard is back in south Florida for another winter at Gulfstream Park, a winter he's hoping will include a trip to the podium on the evening of Jan. 26 to accept an Eclipse Award for his star pupil Forever Together.

Forever Together concluded her 2008 campaign with a three-quarter-length triumph in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. The win was the fourth in seven starts on the year for the 4-year-old daughter of Belong to Me, who banked more than $1.8 million for owner George Strawbridge Jr.'s Augustin Stable. She also registered Grade 1 victories in Keeneland's First Lady and Saratoga's Diana Stakes.

Forever Together spent the last two winters at Gulfstream Park, where she won the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes at 3. However, she will not return to Florida this season.

"I like being in Florida during the winter, but she doesn't," Sheppard explained. "Somewhere along the line she developed into a non-sweater. Right now, she's on the farm in Pennsylvania. She'll go to South Carolina later this winter, and if all goes well be back to the races this spring at Keeneland. Hopefully, we'll be able to put her on a similar campaign with the same kind of success as last year."

Sheppard admitted even he was amazed at how things turned out after he switched Forever Together over to the turf to win an overnight stakes at Arlington Park in May.

"I think the first time we realized how good she might be was after she ran third in the Just a Game," Sheppard said. "That was a pretty good jump in class from an overnight stakes right to a Grade 1. She finished third that day and had to steady a little on the turn. Ramon Dominguez told me afterwards that if he didn't have to take up he thought he would have won. That's when I knew we really had something."

Forever Together won 3 of her next 4 starts, all Grade 1's, including the Filly and Mare Turf, during which she circled five wide into the stretch and outfinished Sealy Hill and Wait a While for the victory.

"I guess the Eclipse should come down between us and Goldikova," Sheppard said. "Obviously, I'm a little prejudiced, but to my way of thinking Forever Together won three Grade 1's in this country and the other filly just one. And our horse is a lot more versatile. She's won at distances up to a mile and one-quarter, while Goldikova appears to be strictly a miler."

Sheppard will be back at the Eclipse Awards for the first time since 2002 when Strawbridge's With Anticipation finished second in the champion grass horse voting behind High Chaparral.

"We went all the way to California that year even though we didn't think we'd get it," Sheppard said. "But it would have been terrible had we won and not been there."

Sheppard will only have to drive a few miles down the street to attend the award ceremony this year, as it will be held at the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach.

"It's not the end of the world if we don't get it," Sheppard said. "But it certainly would be nice to win."

Beethoven tunes up for Holy Bull

Trainer John Ward allowed his top 3-year-old prospect Beethoven to really stretch his legs for the first time Friday since arriving in south Florida, sending him out to breeze an easy half-mile in 51.40 seconds at Gulfstream. Beethoven, a son of Sky Mesa, concluded his juvenile campaign by winning the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs.

"That was actually his first work ever on conventional dirt," Ward said. "He'd done all his previous training on artificial surfaces, although he has run and won on regular dirt at Churchill Downs."

Ward said his immediate goal for Beethoven is the 1 1/8-mile Holy Bull on Jan. 31. He also has several older handicap horses gearing up here for the winter, including Extreme Supreme, Dr. Pleasure, Forest Command, and I'm So Lucky. Ward said both Extreme Supreme and Dr. Pleasure could be under consideration for the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Jan. 31.

Salo Jak tops starter allowance

Salo Jak, a last-to-first winner of Calder's Jack Price Juvenile on Nov. 8, will be heavily favored when he returns under starter-allowance conditions in Sunday's seven-furlong feature at Calder. Salo Jak also is among the nominees for the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes on opening day at Gulfstream, Jan. 3.