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Julien Leparoux celebrates his win aboard Forever Together in the Filly and Mare Turf.
The $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) features top older turf female horses going 1 1/4 miles on the turf at Santa Anita. A field of 10 went to post in this 10th renewal of the race, with top European home Halfway to Heaven sent off as the 5-2 favorite off her wins in the Sun Chariot, Nassau, and Irish 1000 Guineas. In to challenge her included top American hope Wait a While at 3-1, winner of the Ballston Spa at Saratoga and then the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita, and 5-1 third choice Forever Together, winner of the First Lady at Keeneland and the Diana at Saratoga.
In the stretch and Forever Together is still at the back in 8th place with Visit on the rail leading.
Jockey Frankie Dettori sent 10-1 Folk Opera to the front soon after the start to try to set a controlled pace. Folk Opera contested the pace with favorite Halfway to Heaven through easy fractions of 25.46, 50.02, 1:14.78, and 1:38.12 over the very firm course, with Wait a While stalking the pacesetters in third to their outside. At the top of the lane, both pacesetters tired from their duel setting the race up for the closers. 18-1 Visit, who sat back in 8th early, came through on the rail to get the lead in midstretch, but she too faded late. Forever Together, seventh down the backstretch, came out five wide into the lane and rallied well to get the 3/4 length win over 49-1 longest shot Sealy Hill in 2:01.58. It was just a head back to Wait a While third, while favorite Halfway to Heaven finished a disappointing 7th.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 Forever Together Leparoux 11.80 6.40 4.80 1 Sealy Hill Husbands 36.20 15.80 5 Wait a While Velazquez 3.60 Winning Time: 2:01.58 $1 Exacta 3-1 224.60 $1 Trifecta 3-1-5 996.10 $1 Superfecta 3-1-5-4 13,505.10Results chart
Right: Forever Together in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Julien Leparoux said, "She was relaxed, kind of behind a little bit, but she was very relaxed. She's amazing. It's a great privilege to ride this filly. She's amazing. Probably one of the best fillies I ever rode. When I asked her, she actually kicked. But the thing is, I gave her time to move, too, and it really put me very, very wide. I was already wide. So I just kind of waited, and went for it. These are very tough races. She fought all the way, and she was the best today. I try to be a passenger on her, and she just gives me everything every time I ride her."
Left: The trophy presentation with trainer Jonathan Sheppard, jockey Julien Leparoux, and owner George Strawbridge. Strawbridge said, "Absolutely delighted, because she is a star on the turf. I'm not so sure she'd have been a star on the dirt for whatever reason, I guess. (The sire is) Belong to Me, which is Danzig, and that is turf, just ask the Coolmore people. If she's physically well, which she looks very physically well to me today, she will run as a 5-year-old, because she is so good, and I would like to keep her racing at least for one more year. I don't really particularly believe in running them as a 6-year-old."
Right: Forever Together heads back to the barn after the race.
Second place finisher Sealy Hill heads over to the turf course before the race. Her jockey Patrick Husbands said, "I wanted to keep her covered up until the very last minute. She's got Woodbine figured out but this was a new course for her. At the 1/8 pole, a hole opened and she just went shooting through. She got to the lead and then just kind of pulled herself up and the other horse just went by." Her trainer Mark Casse added, "I wasn't surprised. I thought she was training better than ever. She had a really good breeze out here. I thought she would like the firmer turf. I thought there would be some pace in there, and she came running. The plan was, if she ran well in the E.P. Taylor Stakes, we would come out and try it. There was no pace in the E.P. Taylor (finished third). This looks like it's going to be it with her. She has a date with Distorted Humor, unless Mr. (owner Eugene) Melnyk changes his mind."
Right: Third place finisher Wait a While returns after the race. Her jockey John Velazquez said, "She broke a little slow, but that sort of worked out for me. I was able to keep her covered up and they went slow the first part. At the 1/4 pole, I asked her and she gave me a big run but just didn't have it late in the stretch." Her trainer Todd Pletcher added, "Ran well, good trip, and finished third. Pretty straightforward."
Seventh place finisher and beaten favorite Halfway to Heaven returns after the race. Her jockey John Murtagh said, "John Velazquez (on Wait a While) forced my hand too soon. I was where I wanted to be and waiting, but when he came up outside I had to go. I would have liked to have waited; I think it would have made a difference. But it wasn't to be." Her trainer Aidan O'Brien added, "Johnny just thought that maybe it was the mile and a quarter. She went a mile and a quarter at Goodwood (winning the Nassau Stakes). That was Johnny's first impression. It's been a long season, too."
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