Informed nosed pacesetter Mast Track to win the $250,000 San Diego Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar Aug. 2 when 3-5 favorite Well Armed failed to fire in his first start since capturing the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March.
Jockey Aaron Gryder wrapped up in the stretch on Well Armed, who finished last of eight in the 1 1/16-mile San Diego, the major prep at Del Mar for the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I), which is Sept. 6. The San Diego is also part of the "Breeders' Cup Challenge" series of races and guarantees Informed a starting slot in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 6.
Owned by WestsideRentals.com, Russ Sarno, and W.C. Racing, and trained by Doug O'Neill, Informed rebounded from a sixth-place finish in the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) last month. The 5-year-old son of Tiznow won the 1 1/8-mile Californian (gr. II) at Hollywood Park in a 14-1 upset before the Gold Cup.
Tyler Baze rode Informed to victory once again. He had the big bay forwardly placed along the inside in the eight-horse field as Mast Track showed the way out of the gate. Mast Track, with David Flores aboard, was looking for his first win since the 2008 Hollywood Gold Cup.
Mast Track set a solid pace, shaking loose of the challenge from the tracking Temple City on the final turn and opening up a little daylight in the stretch. Informed, racing in third or fourth along the inside of Well Armed on the turn, made steady progress as the favorite dropped out. Informed continued to gradually wear down Mast Track in the final sixteenth of a mile and got up in the last couple of strides under strong urging from Baze. The winning time was 1:41.91, just off the Polytrack record of 1:41.48 set by Zenyatta exactly one year ago.
"The key today was to put him in the race," Baze said. "Last time for the Hollywood Gold Cup, the speed was holding at Hollywood and we just couldn’t get in it. This time though we were there from the start."
Mast Track, who has now lost seven in a row, dug in gamely but had to settle for second after carving fractions of :23.72, :47.19 and 1:10.85. Song of Navarone closed mildly to finish 2 3/4 length back in third. Then came Sangaree, Kelly Leak, Magnum and Well Armed, who won the San Diego last year and toted top weight of 123 pounds this time around.
"I don't think it was the Dubai bounce," said Gryder in reference to Well Armed's record performance at Nad al Sheba March 29. He said he was pushing the favorite to hold his position into the far turn and hoped the 6-year-old would take it from there.
"I pushed on him, but it wasn’t happening," Gryder said. "By the time we hit the top of the stretch, the race was away from him. I didn’t persevere with him from there. I’m confident that we’ll get him back and get it figured out, though. He’ll be back.”
Informed, who was claimed for $25,000 in June 2008, now has a pair of grade II wins among his six lifetime victories in 22 starts. The win, worth $150,000, pushed his career bankroll to $506,339. Ernest Frohboese bred the winner, who is out of the Tabasco Cat mare Cajun Two Step, in Kentucky
“He’d been training really good down here and he loves this racetrack," O'Neill said. "Tyler rode him with a lot of confidence."
The distant second choice in the wagering to Well Armed, Informed carried 116 pounds and paid $15, $6.60 and $6. Mast Track, who is bred, owned and trained by Bobby Frankel, returned $9.20 and $6.80, completing a $2 exacta worth $106.60. Song of Navarone was $8.20 to show.
“I took a chance and put him on the lead," Flores said of the runner-up. "It looked like the right thing to do. He ran great. He never stopped trying. He just got beat."
The filly Allicansayis Wow was scratched by trainer Patrick Biancone.