Champion turf runner Forever Together started her 5-year-old campaign with a stylish late-running win in the $200,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) on the Keeneland turf course April 11.
A confident Julien Leparoux never went to the whip while guiding even-money choice Forever Together five paths wide into the stretch en route to a one-length win over defending Jenny Wiley winner Rutherienne in the 1 1/16-mile event for older fillies and mares. The final time on a turf course rated "good" was 1:46.93.
Trained by Jonathan Sheppard for Augustin Stable, the Kentucky-bred Belong to Me mare captured the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Oct. 24 and was later awarded the Eclipse Award as the nation's leading female grass runner. She won three grade I races in 2008 while earning more than $1.8 million.
Making her first start since the Breeders' Cup, Forever Together broke with the leaders but dropped back to race in next-to-last place, running comfortably as Kiss With a Twist, pressed by I Lost My Choo, set a soft pace. On the turn for home, Leparoux felt pressure on his outside from the trailing Lady Carlock and asked his mount for a little more. Forever Together kicked in to avoid being boxed in and surged into contention at the top of the lane.
Approaching the eighth pole, Rutherienne, on the inside of Forever Together, responded when the gray mare swept by. But Leparoux had just enough room to edge past Kiss With a Twist. Alan Garcia, aboard Rutherienne, had to wait to get through and could not catch the surging Forever Together in the final furlong.
Fractions were :25.92, :51.83 and 1:17.12. They got the mile in 1:40.80.
Rutherienne finished second by a neck over Kiss With a Twist, who fought back along the inside for Miguel Mena.
Forever Together, who had to overcome a bobble while rallying mid-stretch, earned $124,000 for her eighth win in 15 starts. That lifted her lifetime bankroll to $2,128,533.
White Fox Farm bred the winner, who is out of the Relaunch mare Constant Companion.
Carrying top weight of 123 pounds, Forever Together paid $4, $2.80 and $2.20, while topping a $2 exacta worth $16.
Rutherienne, also making her 2009 debut, ended a streak of six consecutive third-place finishes to gain the place spot for trainer Christophe Clement. She returned $5.20 and $3.40.
Kiss With a Twist, coming off back-to-back victories on the Turfway Park Polytrack for trainer Jose Fernandez, was $3.80 to show.
Irish-bred Rustic Flame finished fourth, followed by Backseat Rhythm, Lady Carlock and I Lost My Choo.