Sunday, June 14, 2009

Have we just been Informed of the next Lava Man?

California must be prime real estate for finding ex-claimers who have designs on greatness.

Aggressively ridden by Tyler Baze, and persistently wearing down the 2-1 favorite Rail Trip, 5-year-old Informed let us know he's a contender Saturday, surging to his first stakes victory, and among graded company, to boot, taking the G2 Californian Stakes (video) at Hollywood Park.

The son of Tiznow out of the Tabasco Cat mare Cajun Two Step was claimed a year ago for $25,000 by trainer Doug O'Neill off the same Hollywood Park track over which he was booted to glory Saturday by Baze. Informed has now won five of 20 lifetime for $356,339 and, off the 14-1 score in the Californian, suddenly finds his name mentioned among the favorites for the upcoming, $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup-G1.

The success of the former claimer of course brings to mind California phenom Lava Man -- all the way down to the trainer. It was O'Neill who claimed Lava Man, who had run for tags as low as $12,500 in his career, and then set him on the course to becoming the wealthiest ex-claimer in history. Lava Man eventually won 17 of 45 starts for $5,250,724, including the Hollywood Gold Cup three times, the Santa Anita Handicap twice, and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar over the main tracks, and the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap over Hollywood Park's turf course. He was Cal-bred Horse of the Year in 2006, the state's champion older male in 2006-07, and top California turf horse of 2007. With Einstein's loss Saturday in the Stephen Foster at Churchill, Lava Man remains the only horse ever to win Grade 1 races over dirt, turf and synthetics.

Can O'Neill write the same story with Informed? While I'm not sure he's Lava Man-good, I'm tellin' ya he has a chance to state his case througout California this year, as the handicap ranks there lack any real star.

Rail Trip has now won five of seven lifetime starts with a blacktype victory in the Santana Mile Handicap, but has come in second during both his trips among graded horses. Octogenarian Ball Four -- O.K., he's only 8, not 80 -- challenged Rail Trip for the lead over the Cushion Track strip, but faded to sixth. Dakota Phone came on to finish third, but the 4-year-old Zavata gelding who topped $300,000 in earnings with his money Saturday, like Rail Trip, also has yet to win a graded race. Coming home fourth was Song of Navarone, who's won several stakes races at Sunland and Zia Park and earned more than $600K, but whose best performances in graded company are show-finishes in Grade 3s. Finishing fifth was Awesome Gem, who has earned nearly $1.25 million at age 6, but with only a single lifetime stakes win, the 2007 San Fernando Breeders' Cup S.-G2.

Need to ask why folks say California's handicap ranks are considered thin?

I'm not sure what O'Neill saw in or was told about the colt that made him drop the $25K claim in the box a year ago, but it was no doubt an informed decision. Informed's dam was a one-race winner, but she was out of the stakes winning Desert Wine mare Tapstress, and a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Discreet Hero (Honour and Glory), who won seven stakes from 49 starts for $681,591, and also to the stakes-placed Carson City filly, Purple Princess. So the family speaks well of itself.

I'm looking forward to keeping up to speed with Informed throughout the summer. In part that's because, in an absolutely awesome coincidence for an ex-claimer, his owners include (along with Russ Sarno and W.C. Racing) and he runs beneath bright red silks with a white "For Rent" logo encircled on the jockey's back.

Just for your information, he isn't for rent -- or claim -- anymore.


  1. I Love it come join us in the paddock before the Gold Cup Mark Verge one of the owners of Informed

  2. What a great offer!

    It's a long trip, and I'm likely to be saddled with work back home on the other side of the country. But if there's any way at all to be there for the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11, I'll stop by the paddock.

    Good luck with the horse. He's got a chance to make plenty of noise out there this year.


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