04/07/2010 11:00PM

Forever Together will change tactics

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But if it's slightly broke, do you slightly fix it?

George Strawbridge Jr. and Jonathan Sheppard believe so. On the heels of a mildly disappointing 2009 for Forever Together - which followed a 2008 season in which Forever Together won an Eclipse Award for top female turf runner - the prominent owner-trainer tandem is instructing the mare's regular rider, Julien Leparoux, "to ride her a little bit different this year," said Strawbridge.

"She got so far back in the Breeders' Cup last year that Jonathan and I believe she needs to be a little bit closer to the pace in her races," said Strawbridge. "Maybe she's gotten too relaxed. We're going to see how she responds to staying closer."

The minor tinkering will begin Saturday at Keeneland when Forever Together, a career earner of more than $2.8 million, makes her 6-year-old debut as the defending champion in the Grade 2, $200,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes, one of three graded stakes on the Blue Grass Stakes undercard.

Carribean Sunset and Hot Cha Cha are among the other seven fillies and mares entered to face Forever Together, who was assigned post 2 with Leparoux to ride. The 1 1/16-mile turf race most likely will lose one of its top names because Stardom Bound, the 2-year-old filly champion of 2008, has been entered back in the Sunday feature at Keeneland, a $67,000 allowance that will mark her turf debut.

After starting 2009 by winning the Jenny Wiley as the favorite, Forever Together won just once in five subsequent starts. Although she earned nearly $800,000 on the year and finished third or better in her losses, including an excruciating nose defeat in the Grade 2 Canadian at Woodbine in September, the season as a whole was a tad below her own high standards and "a little frustrating," said Strawbridge. The year ended with Forever Together rallying from eighth to finish a non-threatening third in the Nov. 6 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

"We had talked about retiring her, but I'm weak-willed, and Jonathan talked me into running her one more year," said a smiling Strawbridge. "We'll try to follow a similar, if not identical, schedule as we had for her last year."

There should be an honest pace in the Jenny Wiley, if for no other reason than Wasted Tears is in it. The 5-year-old Wasted Tears has flaunted a sensational turn of foot in winning seven of her last eight races, all of them against lesser company than this.

Carribean Sunset is the most logical upsetter of Forever Together. Trained by Christophe Clement, the Irish-bred Carribean Sunset was beaten just a head following a wild stretch run in the Grade 1 Diana last summer at Saratoga. Garrett Gomez has the mount.

Three other graded winners in 2008 help to round out a terrific race: Hot Cha Cha, Salve Germania, and Quiet Harbor.

The Jenny Wiley directly precedes the Blue Grass as the eighth of 11 races.