George Strawbridge Jr.'s Forever Together came with a furious rally in the center of the course and got up in the final strides to take the $2-million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) (VIDEO) by three-quarters of a length Oct. 24 at Santa Anita Park.
Ridden patiently by Julien Leparoux, Forever Together was eighth entering the stretch while chasing Visit, who shot through a short opening at the hedge to take lead with a furlong to go. Wait a While, stalking the pace throughout, eventually took command inside the sixteenth pole and had the first look at the wire in deep stretch. But Forever Together kept charging from the outside to take the 1 1/4-mile contest. The final time was 2:01.58.
Melnyk Racing’s Sealy Hill, last year’s Canadian Horse of the Year, also made a late charge to get up for a second, a nose in front of Wait a While. Visit, making her U.S. debut, was fourth in a field of 10 older fillies and mares.
“She was relaxed, kind of behind a little bit, but she was very relaxed,” Leparoux said. “Like usual, she made that kick at the end. She’s amazing. It’s a great privilege to ride this filly. She’s amazing. Probably one of the best fillies I ever rode. I was confident.”
Trained by Jonathan Sheppard, Forever Together entered the Filly & Mare Turf off a 1 1/2-length victory in the First Lady (gr. I) Oct. 3 on the Keeneland grass. The 4-year-old gray/roan daughter of Belong to Me also won the Diana (gr. IT) earlier this season at Saratoga, but was stretching out to 10 furlongs for the first time. She was sent off as the 9-2 third choice.
European invader Folk Opera, who came off a victory in the E.P. Taylor (Can-I), set easy opening fractions of :25.46 for the first quarter-mile, :50.02 for a half-mile, 1:14.78 for six furlongs, and 1:38.12 for a mile under Frankie Dettori. She was pressed the whole way by post-time favorite Halfway to Heaven, while Wait a While and Vacare weren’t far behind.
Folk Opera, Wait a While, and Halfway to Heaven were noses apart coming out of the turn, but Visit was the first to the eighth pole after shooting through an opening on the inside. Forever Together was just getting revved up for her late move.
“That was her normal style of running to come from far off the pace,” Sheppard said. “We pretty much decided not to change anything, even though I was a bit concerned with the firmer ground. But we said, 'Let’s not change anything, it’s been working up to now.'
“She had never been farther than a mile and an eighth, and you don’t know if they’ll go a mile and a quarter until you try. My only concern was with her style of running with the firm turf and fairly tight turns.”
The victory improved Forever Together's record to 7-1-3 from 14 starts and boosted her career earnings over the $2-million mark.
The winner paid $11.80, $6.40, and $4.80. The exacta (3-1) returned $449.20, while the $1 trifecta (3-1-5) was worth $996.10.
|Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf|
|1. Forever Together||$11.80||$6.40||$4.80|
|2. Sealy Hill||$36.20||$15.80|
|3. Wait a While||$3.60|