They say champions are defined by their ability to overcome what makes most others crumble.
In Saturday's Grade II Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland, Forever Together embodied that adage.
The champion turf female of 2008 produced a memorable season debut when she uncorked her patented late run in the stretch to take the 11⁄16-mile turf test by one length.
Forever Together had not started since winning the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf last October. Things didn't look great for the closer in her return on Saturday when pacesetter Kiss With a Twist was allowed to get away with running the first half mile in a pedestrian :51.83.
Despite the slow fractions, Forever Together was able to reel in the leaders, rallying from sixth to cover the distance in 1:46.93 under jockey Julien Leparoux.
"She's such a remarkable filly," said owner George Strawbridge, who also saw his filly Informed Decision win the Grade I Vinery Madison on Thursday. "The fractions were impossibly slow, but she is awfully fast. and if they were going to turn it into a sprint I thought she just might do it. It was a remarkable performance."
Rutherienne, winner of the Jenny Wiley last year, came up for second with Kiss With a Twist holding for third.
Eternal Star shines in Commonwealth
Multiple stakes winner Eternal Star notched the first graded-stakes victory of his career when he held off defending race winner Rebellion by three quarters of a length to take the Grade II Commonwealth Stakes.
Eternal Star saved ground on the inside in the early going, rating just behind Ravalo and My Pal Charlie.
As the field entered the stretch, Eternal Star moved out three-wide and came home under jockey Eibar Coa to hit the wire in 1:21.17 over 7 furlongs.
"He's been a lot of fun and had some tough beats this year, but this one made up for it," winning trainer Michael Trombetta said.
Rebellion came up for second with My Pal Charlie holding for third.
Heros Reward winsShakertown by a head
Under strong urging from Javier Castellano, Heros Reward unleashed a kick four-wide in the lane to edge Cannonball and Chamberlain Bridge by a head in a three-horse photo for the Grade III Shakertown Stakes over the turf.
The 7-year-old Heros Reward was making his first start since running fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at on Oct. 25 and had not won in three starts since last August.
The gelding covered the 51/2 furlongs in 1:04.24. Cannonball was second with Chamberlain Bridge another head back in third.
"He's been a terrific horse to have, he's run on all kind of turf conditions," winning trainer Dale Capuano said. "I was worried at the finish, but he's pretty game, and when he got his head in front I thought he'd stay there."
Mr. Nightlinger, winner of last year's Shakertown, finished fifth after setting fractions of :22.25 and :45.87.