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Aqueduct Preview | Forever Together Stakes 2023: Regal Realm Looking For 2nd Straight Score
Regal Realm (Carson Blevins/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Aqueduct Preview | Forever Together Stakes 2023: Regal Realm Looking For 2nd Straight Score

Augustin Stables’ second generation homebred Regal Realm brings newfound graded stakes credentials to a competitive field assembled for Sunday’s seventh running of the $135,000 Forever Together for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward going 1 1/16 miles over the outer turf at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Forever Together is carded as Race 7 on Sunday’s nine-race program, which also features the $120,000 Central Park in Race 5. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern. 

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Regal Realm, by Animal Kingdom, enters from a triumphant graded stakes debut in the Grade 3 Ladies Turf on September 9 going one mile at Kentucky Downs. The 4-year-old chestnut was in command through each point of call under jockey Florent Geroux to defeat graded stakes winners Sparkle Blue and White Frost by 1 1/4 lengths while earning a career-high 94 Beyer Speed Figure.

A five-time winner over as many racetracks for trainer Jonathan Thomas, Regal Realm won her stakes debut in the one-mile Lady Canterbury at Canterbury Park in June before finishing third in the restricted De La Rose in August at Saratoga. She was a second-out graduate last May going two turns on the turf at Delaware Park before defeating winners in her 2023 debut in February going 7 1/2 furlongs at Gulfstream Park, followed by a second-level allowance optional claiming score in May at Belmont Park.

Thomas stated that Regal Realm has given all the right signs that she is a stakes-quality horse.

“She definitely threatened to be that type of filly and obviously everything worked out really well last time. The race flow went in our favor and she got a great ride that day,” Thomas recalled. “She traveled well and she’s shown up almost everywhere we’ve taken her.”

Thomas expressed uncertainty on whether Regal Realm would remain in training through the winter or get a freshening.

“We’re taking it race by race and she hasn’t really plateaued so far in her training, so we’re taking a step by step approach,” Thomas said. “I’m curious to take her up there, it may be a good place to stop on her in winter. But we’re open minded and we’ll let her tell us.”

The Forever Together honors the 2008 Champion Grass Mare who won that year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf for George Strawbridge, Jr.’s Augustin Stables, who also owns Regal Realm.

“I gave him three options for this horse and this was the race he chose, I’m sure for sentimental reasons,” Thomas said.

Bred in Kentucky, Regal Realm is out of the Empire Maker mare Sky Willow – a stakes-winner on synthetic and dual stakes placed on turf, whose half-sister Spelling Again was a multiple graded stakes winner.

Jose Ortiz, who piloted Regal Realm in her Belmont conquest, will return to the irons from post 8.

Trainer Graham Motion will saddle a pair of fillies in first-time North America starting Cigamia [post 2, John Velazquez] and Willakia [post 1, Jorge Ruiz].

Cigamia, a Flaxman Stables Kentucky homebred, seeks her first triumph since a narrow win going one mile last July at Killarney. The 4-year-old Karakontie bay has finished second in 3-of-5 starts since then, including a runner-up in the Group 3 Brownstown in July at Fairyhouse behind next out Group 2 winner Zarinsk.

Motion said Cigamia has acclimated well to her new surroundings.

“She’s been here for a couple of months and has had a handful of breezes since then. She’s done well,” Motion said. “We’ve had some luck with the stallion, so I’m excited to run her to see how she does. She worked five-eighths in 1:01 and change on Saturday and did it nicely.”

Motion said Cigamia possesses the same level of toughness that is typical of Karakontie’s offspring.

“Tough as a racehorse, not necessarily difficult, but she seems like a tough type,” Motion said. “She’s settled in very well and we’ve had enough time to get her adjusted to things over here. It’ll be nice to get a run into her before we decide whether to go to Florida with her or not.”

Stonestreet Stables’ Kentucky homebred Willakia will make her second career stakes start two races after finishing second in the All Along on September 16 over good turf at Pimlico Race Course. The 4-year-old Tapit bay was a gate-to-wire 6 1/4-length winner in a first-level allowance on July 27 at Colonial Downs. Willakia enters from a last out second in a second-level allowance on October 7 at Keeneland.

“I think a mile to a mile and a sixteenth is probably her trip,” Motion said. “I’m not sure how far she wants to go, but she’s a filly we’ve always liked a lot. I think she’s shown that she can be stakes caliber.”

Willakia is out of the Canada’s 2014 Champion Sprinter Hillaby, a Distorted Humor mare whose dam Sealy Hill was Canada’s 2007 Horse of the Year.

Trainer Chad Brown, who sent out inaugural 2017 Forever Together winner Penjade, will saddle a pair of French-bred fillies in Faith in Humanity [post 7, Manny Franco] and Chili Flag [post 6, Irad Ortiz, Jr.].

Klaravich Stables’ Faith in Humanity, by Lope de Vega, will try to make amends from an uncharacteristic sixth in an allowance optional claimer on September 17 over the Big A outer turf. The effort was her first start since capturing her 4-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Honey Fox on March 4 at Gulfstream Park, where she fended off a late rally from White Frost to win by a neck. As a 3-year-old, Faith in Humanity was a half-length winner of the Grade 3 Pebbles at Belmont at the Big A, defeating next-out Grade 1-winning stable mate Gina Romantica by a half-length.

Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, and Michael Kisber’s Chili Flag has finished no worse than third since joining Brown’s stable over the winter. The 4-year-old Cityscape chestnut earned her first stateside score in her third start in North America, defeating her eventual graded stakes-placed stablemate Idea Generation by 6 1/4 lengths in a first-level allowance in July at Belmont Park.

Trainer Christophe Clement, who won the 2020 Forever Together with Feel Glorious, will send out Moyglare Stud Farm’s Irish-bred Malavath [post 5, Joel Rosario], who pursues her first triumph in North America. The 4-year-old Mehmas chestnut was second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2021 and a close fifth in last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile for French-based conditioner Francis-Henri Graffard, but was a respective fifth and sixth in her two starts for Clement, both at stakes level.

Completing the field are the Brittany Russell-trained Australian-bred Uncorked [post 3, Dylan Davis], and stakes-winner Tass [post 4, Javier Castellano] for trainer Jorge Abreu.

The Linda Rice-trained pair of Movie Moxy and Hot Fudge have been entered for main track only.