Forever Together, the 2008 female grass champion, will ship west to take on Tuscan Evening, the current female turf star in California, in the $250,000 Gamely Stakes (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park May 29, according to trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
The match-up is the first of two grade I races on tap at Hollywood Park for the Memorial Day weekend. The other is the May 31 Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT).
Speaking from his Ashwell Stable training base in West Grove, Pa., Sheppard, trainer of Forever Together, said May 23 that the 6-year-old mare would work once more this week before being flown west May 26 with assistant Anne Sinchak.
“She worked Wednesday (May 19) at Camden, S.C., but I’m bringing her up here for her next work,” said Sheppard, who chose the Gamely for Forever Together over Belmont Park's Just a Game Handicap (gr. IT) June 5.
“She’s run in the Just a Game at Belmont the last two years (finishing third and second, respectively),” said Sheppard. “That’s a one-turn mile. The Gamely is a mile and an eighth, and I think she’s better suited to two turns. She’s older and has more stamina now.”
Meanwhile, Tuscan Evening, winner of four graded turf stakes at Santa Anita, completed preparations for the Jerry Hollendorfer stable with a seven-furlong work in 1:25 3/5 on Cushion Track May 23 under exercise rider Marco Ramirez.
“We’re ready,” said assistant trainer Dan Ward. “Forever Together better be ready to run a mile and an eighth in 1:45 and change, because that’s what we’re going to do.”
Sheppard has the enviable problem of trying to find spots to separate three outstanding grass females. He also conditions Rainbow View, winner of the recent Gallorette Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Pimlico, and Fantasia, probable for the Just a Game on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
Forever Together, owned by George Strawbridge's Augustin Stable, has run well in two previous California outings at Santa Anita. She won the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) in 2008 and finishing third in the same race last year. She has won nine of 21 starts and earned $2,842,639.
“There are some good horses out there, and we’re facing them on their home ground,” said Sheppard. “But we don’t have to duck anybody.”
Sheppard will try the Gamely for the second time after finishing second with Kool Kat Katie behind champion Fiji in 1998. He said Rajiv Maragh will ride the gray/roan mare for the first time in place of Julien Leparoux, sidelined with a back injury.
Regular rider Rafael Bejarano will be back on Tuscan Evening, a 5-year-old Irish-bred mare who has won 10 of 14 American starts and earned $899,408 for owner William de Burgh.
The Gamely, the first grade I of the Hollywood meet, boasts a strong supporting cast expected to include Cat by the Tale (Martin Garcia), General Consensus (Alex Solis), Gotta Have Her (Tyler Baze), Medaglia d'Amour (Joel Rosario), Princess Haya (Joe Talamo) and Well Monied (Mike Smith).
Cat by the Tale worked six furlongs on Cushion Track in 1:14 1/5 for the Neil Drysdale stable.