Odds-on choice Informed Decision improved to five-for-five on synthetic tracks and cemented her position as a leading candidate for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint when she sailed to a 2 1/2-length victory in the $398,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters (gr. III) (VIDEO) in Erie, Pa., on the evening of Sept. 12.
Trained by Jonathan Sheppard for George Strawbridge's Augustin Stable, Informed Decision notched her fourth graded win of the year and went over the $1-million mark in career earnings. She defeated three other grade I winners in the Masters, a 6 1/2-furlong event for fillies and mares.
Julien Leparoux guided the 4-year-old daughter of Monarchos to victory. Informed Decision charged three wide coming off the turn and surged to the lead in upper stretch, taking a commanding lead over the stalking Sweet Lorena past the eighth pole. She finished up under even handling in a time of 1:15.10 on Presque Isle Downs' Tapeta Footings racing surface. The time was .06 off the track record established last year.
The tough lineup resulted in five scratches in the Masters, reducing the field to seven. Tequilas Dayjur outfought Sweet Lorena for the early lead and posted fractions of :22.86 and :45.86 before stopping. Informed Decision, always close while racing three wide, proved easily best, although Sweet Lorena fought back against the late runners to hold second.
“We were on the outside, so we had no trouble at all,” said the 26-year-old Leparoux, who earned his 100th stakes win. “This is a very nice filly, and she always pretty much does what we ask.”
Sweet Lorena, ridden by Dennis Carr, finished a half-length ahead of Test Stakes (gr. I) winner Flashing, who closed well for Richard Migliore to nudge the Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) victress Game Face for third by a neck. Second choice Diamondrella, coming off a triumph in Belmont Park's Just A Game (gr. IT) on the turf in her last start, faded to sixth and ended her six-race win streak.
Flashing, Game Face, and Diamondrella were all making their synthetic track debuts.
Not Informed Decision, who has proven quite comfortable on all-weather surfaces, previously winning Keeneland's Raven Run (gr. II) and Madison (gr. I) and Arlington Park's Chicago Handicap (gr. III), all on Polytrack. Informed Decision was coming off a third-place finish behind Music Note and Indian Blessing in Saratoga's Ballerina (gr. I), contested on a sloppy dirt track Aug. 29.
Strawbridge was not discouraged by Informed Decision’s loss at Saratoga . “She hated the (sloppy) going in the Ballerina,” he said. “But she still was very courageous. And she was so fresh, and I said, ‘Let’s not discount Presque Isle.’ Jonathan thought about it and said, ‘That’s too much of a gamble.’
“But then he called me and said, ‘She’s just bucking out of her skin. It took nothing out of her. I think we should take your suggestion.’ Ha! Ha! Usually when Jonathan mentions it was my idea, he’s covering his bases.”
Informed Decision's fondness for synthetics certainly bodes well for a possible run in this year's Breeders' Cup. The Filly and Mare Sprint will be run over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface Nov. 6 and Sheppard indicated earlier in the week that he was using the Masters as a stepping stone.
“Absolutely. That’s what she’s pointing for. That’s why she’s here,” Strawbridge said.
He added that Informed Decision will also receive one more Breeders’ Cup prep, the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland on Oct. 10.
Informed Decision, who also won the Humana Distaff (gr. I) on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs this year, has now captured nine of 12 career starts. She earned $240,000 for the victory, pushing her bankroll to $1,081,617.
Bred in Kentucky by C. Kidder and N. Cole, the winning gray/roan filly is out of Palangana, by His Majesty. She cost $320,000 as a 2-year-old.
Sent off at odds of 9-10, Informed Decision paid $3.80, $2.40, and $2.40, topping a $58.40 exacta. Sweet Lorena, trained by Michael Ferraro for Shining Starlite Racing, had a three-race local win streak snapped while returning $9.20 and $4.40. Godolphin's Flashing was $4 to show.
The Informed Decision team members were not the only ones rejoicing the Masters' result. “This was like a win for us,” said Ferraro.
“Bottom line, turning for home, I knew everybody else was going to have to do some running to beat us,” said Carr.
Game Face finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Porte Bonheur, who loomed at the top of the stretch but tired. Then came Diamondrella and Tequilas Dayjur. Nicks, Bear Now, Beautiful Venue, Dubai Majesty, and Rollicking Affair all scratched.