Dubai Racing Club Report
If California-based runner Informed finds his way home first in the $1 million Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) March 28, it could very well mark one of the most distinctive training feats in Nad al Sheba racing history.
The 5-year-old son of Tiznow has been so unruly when dispatched for his morning exercise that trainer Doug O’Neill and his staff have had to not only exhibit great patience, but also come up with some creative ways to keep him under control.
“He is one of a kind,” said assistant trainer Leandro Mora, who has been overseeing Informed’s training in Dubai prior to O’Neill’s arrival.
Informed has flashed potential since he was very young. A strong, blocky individual, he drew a bid of $500,000 at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale from Robert and Beverly Lewis, who campaigned 1998 Dubai World Cup winner Silver Charm.
But somewhere along the path of his life, Informed developed habits that include rearing, lunging and jumping when he arrives on to the racetrack in the mornings—and sometimes even before he leaves his own barn. When handlers put a bridle and saddle on Informed, “he tries to run out of the stall,” Mora said.
“He has some kind of a mental problem about it,” Mora explained. “He is the sweetest horse in the stall otherwise, just very nice.”
But it’s a different story when Informed is under tack, a story that O’Neill and his crew did not know about when the trainer decided to claim the horse last summer. Informed had always shown ability, finishing in the top three in five of his first eight starts, but he was dropped into a claiming race last June and O’Neill grabbed him for what seemed like a bargain $25,000.
“After we claimed him, we found out he was a tough one to take,” Mora recalled. “The guy who had been getting on him in the mornings said, ‘You saved my life. Thank you!’”
Mora turned to O’Neill’s top exercise rider Tony Romero, who has been coming to Dubai with the trainer’s runners since 2003, when Avanzado finished a strong second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.
“He’s the only one who can deal with him,” Mora said.
To make Romero’s job a little bit easier, Informed was fitted with a lip chain that he wears in addition to a bit, and sometimes a thin cord is attached to part of his bridle like a rein that Romero can use to put pressure on the chain and encourage Informed to settle down and focus on his work rather than on aerial gymnastics.
Romero’s most difficult moments in the saddle can be when Informed first walks on to the track. With Mora leading him, he has pulled away at times this week, jerking the halter and lead shank out of Mora’s hands and then jumping into the air like a Lipizzaner doing military maneuvers. Romero has at times used one hand to touch Informed on his head when the horse has been half rearing and threatening to fall over backward just as a reminder to him to go forward.
At other times, Romero has had to wave his whip by Informed’s head to keep him going the right way. "When he switches leads, sometimes he tries to get in,” the rider explained, noting that the horse comes perilously close to the rail on some of those occasions but will keep to the proper direction to avoid the whip.
Despite all his quirks, Informed has gotten better with tutelage from O’Neill’s team—and his recent racing performance reflects that improvement. After winning an allowance/optional claiming race Dec. 12 at Hollywood Park, Informed has run strongly in two grade II stakes, even finishing ahead of Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) contender Well Armed while second by a nose in the San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita Park Jan. 10. It should be noted that Well Armed finished third in last year’s Dubai World Cup and is a grade I winner.
"I’m very, very optimistic that we have a good chance in the race,” Mora said. “When we beat Well Armed, we knew we could compete with a grade I horse at any place in the world.”