After kicking off her 5-year-old campaign with a confident win in the Jenny Wiley (gr. IIT), Forever Together will be favored to extend her three-race win streak in the $400,000 Just a Game (gr. IT) at Belmont Park June 6.
Augustin Stables' Forever Together, last year's female turf champion, ran third in last year's one-mile Just a Game, her only previous start at Belmont. A field of eight is lined up for this year's renewal on the Widener course.
Forever Together followed last year's effort with a win in Saratoga's Diana (gr. IT) over good going. After a third-place finish in Woodbine's Canadian (gr. IIT) on yielding ground, the daughter of Belong to Me rattled off consecutive wins in the First Lady (gr. IT) and the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) to sew up end-of-the-year honors.
Her win in the 1 1/16-mile Jenny Wiley on April 11 came over ground listed as 'good' but playing considerably slower than that. Racing in sixth behind fractions of :25 4/5, :51 4/5 and :1:17 for the first six furlongs, she rallied to get the lead a furlong out and was hand ridden by regular jockey Julien Leparoux for a one-length win.
“Our concerns were the ground being too soft and obviously, the lack of pace,” said trainer Jonathan Sheppard. “We ran a horse the day before, and it seemed pretty soft. But it dried out some for our race and she handled everything pretty well.
“She didn’t like the soft turf at Woodbine last year, which is why we were concerned at Keeneland,” Sheppard added. “But she really came with her late run again. We are basically on the same schedule as last year, ambitious though it may be. She is a tough, strong mare but a bit fragile, mentally. You have to spread out her races and not give her too much to do. Then again, the really good ones don’t need too much.”
Forever Together will carry top weight of 123 pounds, spotting her seven rivals five pounds apiece. In amassing a career mark of 8-1-3 in 15 starts and earning $2,128,533, the gray/roan mare has won her two other attempts at the one-mile distance.
My Princess Jess and Carribean Sunset ran first in second in the 1 1/16-mile Beuagay Handicap (gr. IIIT) last time out.
The multiple graded winner My Princess Jess, a 4-year-old daughter of Stormy Atlantic owned by Lael Stable, scored by 1 3/4 lengths in the May 2 Beaugay. Trained by Barclay Tagg, she has won five of 11 starts lifetime.
The Irish-bred Carribean Sunset was a three-time group winner in her native country for Dermot Weld. Improvement can be expected in the second American start for the Danehill Dancer 4-year-old owned by Jon and Sarah Kelly and trained by Christophe Clement.
Darley Stable's Raw Silk won the Sand's Point (gr. IIT) over the course more than a year ago and grabbed a stakes victory at Gulfstream Park in her last start for trainer Tom Albertrani April 11.
Captain's Lover, now in the barn of Todd Pletcher for Team Valor International, is a group I winner in South Africa who has not raced since finishing fourth in the Prix de la Foret (Fr-I) at Longchamp Oct. 4.
I Lost My Choo was seventh in the Jenny Wiley, but trainer Phil Serpe threw that race out and brought her back against fellow New York-breds. The grade III winner got her confidence back in a victory in the Mount Vernon on May 17.
“That filly of Jonathan Sheppard’s is one tough horse, and she is on top of her game” Serpe said. “But I think my horse has proven herself. Her race at Gulfstream (a win in the grade III Honey Fox on March 7) was a great race, I thought. She went a mile in 1:33 2/5, so she is capable. But she has to have pretty firm footing to be at her best.”
Modern Look is a group II winner in France who made her U.S. debut in a runner-up showing in a stakes at Santa Anita last March for trainer Bobby Frankel.
Diamondrella won a turf sprint stakes at Keeneland April 18 for her fifth consecutive win and the Angel Penna Jr. trainee steps into graded company for the first time.
$400,000 Just a Game Stakes (gr. IT, Race 7, 3:15 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Carribean Sunset (IRE), R A Dominguez, 118, C Clement
2. Raw Silk (KY), P Lopez, 118, T Albertrani
3. Captain's Lover (SAF), J R Velazquez, 118, T A Pletcher
4. I Lost My Choo (NY), J Lezcano, 118, P M Serpe
5. Forever Together (KY), J R Leparoux, 123, J E Sheppard
6. Modern Look (GB), G K Gomez, 118, R J Frankel
7. Diamondrella (GB), R Maragh, 118, A J Penna, Jr.
8. My Princess Jess (FL), C H Velasquez, 118, B Tagg