Lightly-regarded Informed , ridden vigorously by Tyler Baze from before the quarter pole, gradually wore down favored Rail Trip in deep stretch to win the $250,000 Californian (gr. II) (VIDEO) at odds of 14-1 at Hollywood Park June 13.
The Californian was the first stakes win for the 5-year-old son of Tiznow who was claimed a year ago for $25,000 at Hollywood by trainer Doug O'Neill. WestsideRentals.com, Russ Sarno, and W.C. Racing are the owners of Informed, who must be considered one of the top candidates for the $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) July 11.
Sporting bright red silks with a "For Rent" logo emblazoned in a white circle on the back, Baze threaded his way around traffic on the final turn with Informed to emerge on the outside in position to challenge the leaders Rail Trip and Ball Four in the 1 1/8-mile Cushion Track test. Baze, who said afterward he was instructed to ride the bay horse hard to get him to respond, scrubbed for all he was worth down the lane while just showing his charge the whip. His effort paid off with a three-quarters-of-a-length win over Rail Trip, who was the 2-1 favorite in the field of 10.
"This is a horse with a big heart," said Baze after riding Informed for the first time. "He has got that one three-eighths-mile run. I knew if I could time it right, not move him too early or too late, I could get him there. I watched his replays several times and I finally got the opportunity to ride him today. I never even worked him before today. It was like a puzzle. We put the pieces together and it all worked out."
Rail Trip, ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr. along the inside, nipped the late-charging Dakota Phone and Rafael Bejarano by a head for second. The final time was 1:48.37.
Informed, whose only previous black type came in a nose loss to Cowboy Cal in the San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) in January, paid a whopping $30.20, $11.40, and $6.40. He topped a $128.60 exacta with Rail Trip, who returned $4.20 and $2.60. Dakota Phone paid $3.60 to show.
"He’s an extremely talented horse but he has been a little bit inconsistent," O'Neill said of the winner. "This race was definitely something we were trying out and shooting for the stars type of thing. I thought this was a wide-open race.
"Rail Trip we knew was a brilliant horse but I, like some people, questioned if a mile and an eighth was his ideal distance. I thought he was maybe a little bit vulnerable. It was a wide-open race, and we’ve seen Informed run good enough to make sense to give him a chance. We’ll be back (for the Gold Cup).”
Valdivia, who had been outmaneuvered on Rail Trip by the front-running Ball Four for an upset in the 1 1/16-mile Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II) one month ago, seemed determined to not let that one dictate the pace this time. Rail Trip bounced to the lead out of the gate, but Ball Four and Joe Talamo came after them, with Ball Four eventually taking over. Though they were moving quickly early, leaving the stalkers in the field several lengths behind, the fractions -- :23.51, :47.61, and 1:11.45 -- weren't ridiculously quick.
Informed , along with Song of Navarone and a couple of others, were in the next grouping, content to let the front-runners duke it out. Rounding the far turn, though, Baze went to work on Informed, and Song of Navarone was also charging into position to challenge in the homestretch.
Ball Four weakened past mid-stretch while Rail Trip continued to fight on down the lane, determined to hold off Informed. But Informed, in the middle of the track, closed relentlessly and eventually inched away late for an improbable victory.
"From the get-go, I was going to make Ball Four work a little more today," Valdivia said. "That other kid (Joe Talamo on Ball Four) was riding on a loose rein, so I just eased him back out of there. No sense going head and head. He ran his race. You just can't beat Doug O'Neill right now."
"Without Ball Four in the race I think we’re an easy winner," trainer Ron Ellis said of Rail Trip. "We’ll see about the Gold Cup. I want to see how he comes out of this. I’m not sure if farther is better for him.”
Song of Navarone wound up fourth, a neck behind Dakota Phone, who rallied from eighth in the stretch. Then came Awesome Gem, Ball Four, Ukiah, Unusual Smoke, Mr Napper Tandy, and Aitcho. Mast Track and Limestone Edge scratched.
The victory, Informed's fifth in 20 lifetime starts, was worth $150,000 and bumped his career earnings to $356,339. His last win came in an optional claiming allowance race at Hollywood Park last December, the race that preceded his surprising effort in the San Pasqual.
Informed, who ran seventh in the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) at Nad al Sheba on Dubai World Cup night March 28, won for the first time in five starts this year. He was coming off a fourth-place finish, 1 3/4 lengths behind the victorious Bullsbay , in the Alysheba Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs May 1.
Ernest C. Frohboese bred Informed, who is out of the Tabasco Catmare Cajun Two Step, in Kentucky.