10/05/2009 11:00PM

Sheppard headed for best year ever


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Jonathan Sheppard has accomplished more great things since he was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1990 than the vast majority of horse trainers could ever dream of in an entire career.

But even by the high standards that Sheppard, 69, has set for himself, the last couple of years have been exceptional. With horses such as Forever Together, Informed Decision, Just as Well, Winter View, and Cloudy's Knight - and those are just his runners on the flat, versus jumpers, which was what got Sheppard into the Hall - this a heady time indeed.

With the Keeneland fall meet starting Friday, the Sheppard stable appears set to surpass its all-time earnings mark of $4.1 million last year. Forever Together runs Saturday in the $400,000 First Lady shortly after Informed Decision goes in the $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes on the same card. With more than $3.8 million already banked this year, and the Breeders' Cup and other major events still to come, this should be Sheppard's best season yet.

"It's been like a dream come true, having these good horses," said Sheppard, who will be here all week. "It all seems to have happened at once. I don't quite know why."

Informed Decision worked a half-mile in 47.60 seconds over the Keeneland Polytrack on Tuesday, while Forever Together was scheduled to work Wednesday. Julien Leparoux rides both Saturday.

Leparoux won the Grade 1 Flower Bowl aboard Pure Clan last Saturday at Belmont Park but will stick with Forever Together in the likely event that both run in the Nov. 6 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita, said Leparoux's agent, Steve Bass.

Bob Holthus, trainer of Pure Clan, said from Churchill Downs that the filly exited the Flower Bowl "with a tiny nick on her, which is amazing considering how [soft] that ground was."

Holthus added that if Forever Together does not make the Breeders' Cup for some reason, Leparoux will get the ride back, but otherwise, "we're kind of kicking that around right now, who we're going to get to ride her."

Apprentice rider in intensive care

Amanda Tamburello, a 32-year-old apprentice rider who recorded her first career victory last week at Turfway Park, suffered a serious head injury when she lost consciousness and fell Saturday night at a social gathering.

Tamburello remained in the intensive-care unit at the University of Louisville Hospital on Tuesday, said Bass, her close friend. Tamburello has a sister from their native Michigan who is remaining by her bedside in the hospital.

Torres permitted to ride

Jockey Francisco Torres was officially reinstated Monday after being granted a conditional license to ride in this state by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Torres, 40, was a mainstay of this circuit until being banned in November 2000 following a lengthy series of substance-abuse issues. In the meantime, Torres has ridden elsewhere, most recently in Louisiana, while rehabilitating his lifestyle.

Torres, being represented by Terry "Jaws" Miller, is named on just one mount Friday.

Rachel returns to Kentucky

Rachel Alexandra, the superstar filly who is through racing for the year, was scheduled to be vanned overnight Tuesday from her summer base in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to Churchill.

The filly's connections have said they intend to ease her into a lengthy vacation before gearing her back up for a 4-year-old campaign in 2010.

* Gleam of Hope, winner of the Cradle Stakes at River Downs last month, will make his next start in the Iroquois Stakes on Nov. 1, opening day of the Churchill fall meet, said trainer Tony Reinstedler.