11/03/2010 11:43AM

Sheppard has faith in Forever Together and Informed Decision


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Forever Together of 2008 would give favored Midday all she wanted in Friday’s Filly and Mare Turf, while Informed Decision, vintage 2009, would be a clear favorite in the Filly and Mare Sprint. But empires fade.

Neither mare has come back in 2010 to their best form of seasons past, and it has generally been that kind of year on the Thoroughbred side of trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s stable. Sheppard had a magical 2009, going 16-8-6 with 50 graded stakes starters. This year, Sheppard comes into Breeders’ Cup weekend with seven graded stakes wins.

It’s not just the two mares, either. Seeming ageless Cloudy’s Knight almost won the BC Marathon last fall, and Sheppard held out hope of winning a Grade 1 with the 10-year-old this year. Instead, Cloudy’s Knight twice suffered flare-ups of an old physical problem, and he was retired last month. Promising 3-year-old Bushwhacked finished second in the Lexington Stakes, then almost died of a serious illness. But then Sheppard never figured he’d repeat his 2009 results: What goes up must come down.

On the raw face of things, Forever Together has fallen quite some distance in 2010, failing to win even once in five starts this year. Informed Decision has three 2010 wins, but those have come in a pair of Grade 3s and in an ungraded race at Presque Isle. Still, Sheppard flew in to Louisville on Sunday night to watch the two mares work Monday morning, and he liked what he saw.

“I think neither was under any great pressure,” he said. “I think that they still have it.”

Informed Decision did fly home to beat fellow Filly and Mare Sprint starters Dubai Majesty in the Presque Isle Downs Masters in September, and it was only three races ago that Forever Together finished a close, closing third to Proviso in the Grade 1 Diana. Her last start, in the Flower Bowl at Belmont, should never have happened, according to her trainer.

“I walked out on the track, and I didn’t think it was going to be as soft as it was,” Sheppard said. “I was wrong.”
The turf is firm this week at Churchill Downs. Informed Decision surely did whizz through the stretch in her Monday drill. And Jonathan Sheppard is due for better luck.