INGLEWOOD, Calif. (June 13, 2009) — Informed, claimed for $25,000 a year ago, rallied under Tyler Baze to score a 14-1 upset in Saturday’s $250,000 Californian at Hollywood Park, establishing himself as a major contender for the TVG/Betfair Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11.
Trainer Doug O’Neill, who has saddled four Gold Cup winners with four starters, won three of them with Lava Man, a $50,000 claim. Lava Man’s first Gold Cup triumph came after O’Neill sent him out to capture the 2005 Californian.
Informed, a 5-year-old son of Tiznow, overhauled favorite Rail Trip just inside the sixteenth pole and went on to win by the Grade II event by three-quarters of a length, covering 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track in 1:48.37.
Rail Trip, who gained the lead from Ball Four on the turn for home, held off late-running Dakota Phone by a head for second money. It was another neck back to Song of Navarone in fourth and a half-length to Awesome Gem in fifth. Ball Four was another half-length back in sixth in the field of ten, followed by Ukiah, Unusual Smoke, Mr Napper Tandy and Aitcho. Mast Track and Limestone Edge were scratched.
Informed, who paid $30.20, $11.40 and $6.40, was long coveted by Baze, who had not ridden him previously. He was only beaten a nose by Cowboy Cal in the Grade II San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita Park in January.
“This is a horse with a big heart,” Baze said. “He’s 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.”
Informed, fourth in the Alysheba in his previous start on May 1 at Churchill Downs, finished in a dead heat for fourth in the San Antonio Handicap in February and seventh in the Godolphin Mile at Nad Al Sheba in March.
“Even before Dubai, I told Leandro (Mora) and Doug, ‘I should be on this horse, I can win with him,’” Baze said. “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.”
Informed, owned by Mark Verge, Josh Kaplan, Glenn Sorgenstein and Russ Sarno, was claimed from his ninth start here on June 26, 2008, when he won by 8 ¼ lengths. He has won three of 11 starts since then and is five-of-19 overall. The winner’s check of $150,000 was his biggest payday by far, boosting his earnings to $356,339.
“This is such a great group of owners,” O’Neill said. “They had the opportunity to go into the Directors’ Room, get a free buffet and open bar. He’s an extremely talented horse but he’s been a little bit inconsistent. This race was definitely something we were trying out and shooting for the stars.
“I thought this was a wide open race,” he added. “Rail Trip we knew was a brilliant horse, but I, like some people, questioned if a mile and one-eighth was his ideal distance. I thought he was maybe a little bit vulnerable. Ball Four ran such a big race, but he kind of had the race to himself last time. It was a wide open race, and we’ve seen Informed run good enough to make sense to give him a chance. Unless they close the Directors’ Room, we’ll be back (in the Gold Cup). He deserves a chance back, that’s for sure.”
Ron Ellis, trainer of Rail Trip, was disappointed but encouraged despite the setback.
“I thought he ran awesome,” Ellis said. “He turned the tables on Ball Four. It’s just a tough situation when you have two speed horses in there, and it cost him in the end. Without Ball Four in the race, I think we’re an easy winner. 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.”
One horse that would have enjoyed added distance Saturday was third-place finisher Dakota Phone, who was eighth with a furlong to run.
“He always tries real hard,” jockey Rafael Bejarano said. “I had a good position and thought I had a good chance but that other horse never quit and was still running to the end.”
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who combined to win the Californian with Bejarano and Heatseeker last year only to have his horse injured a few days before the Gold Cup, plans to enter Dakata Phone this year.
“Yes, for sure,” he said when asked about the Grade I classic, which will be contested at 1 ¼ miles.
Rail Trip, a winner of five of seven starts with a pair of seconds, paid $4.20 and $2.60. The show price on Dakota Phone was $3.60. With several other upsets besides that of Informed, there was only one perfect Pick Six ticket. Purchased at Canterbury Downs in Minnesota, it was worth $344,646. There was a carryover of $83,719 entering Saturday. An additional $469,989 was wagered.
Bejarano rode three winners and leads the standings by a 50-48 margin over Joel Rosario, who rode two winners including Obrigado in the $100,000 Round Table Handicap.
Obrigado, a 6-year-old French-bred, covered 1 ¾ miles on the Lakeside Turf Course in 2:54.49 while snapping a 15-race winless streak dating to the 2007 San Luis Obispo Handicap. He finished 3 ¼ lengths clear of Porfido in the Grade III event.
“They were going a little fast for a mile and three quarters — :24 and :48,” Rosario said. “My horse comes from off the pace and it was perfect for him. I was following Porfido because he was the horse to beat. This horse has been running against some nice horses. This was a lot easier company for him.”
Obrigado, owned by Gary Seidler and Peter Vegso, won for the sixth time in 31 starts while boosting his earnings to $666,504 with the winner’s check of $60,000. The Neil Drysdale trainee paid $4.20 to win.
Martin Garcia also rode a pair of winners, while O’Neill saddled two to pad his lead atop the trainers’ standings (26-15 over John Sadler).
As Jose Valdiva Jr., the rider of Rail Trip, said after The Californian, “You just can’t beat Doug O’Neill right now.”
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