04/27/2011 2:42PM

Hollywood Park: Informed making return to races

Benoit & Associates
Informed, with Tyler Baze riding, wins the 2009 Californian.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The performance of Informed, a two-time stakes winner in 2009, in an optional claimer at Hollywood Park on Friday evening will determine whether the 7-year-old gelding spends the rest of the year running in claimers or stakes.

Unraced since October, when he finished second in a $50,000 claimer over a mile on turf, Informed will revert to a sprint for the first time on Friday since a sixth-place finish in November 2008.

Friday’s race is run over seven furlongs and has drawn a field of five, including Bet on Victor, Don Tito, and El Martillo, who have placed in stakes in the last two years; and Kelly Leak, the winner of the 2009 Sunland Park Derby, the day he beat eventual Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.

Trainer Doug O’Neill and the partnership that owns Informed had been considering starting the gelding in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on May 7, but opted for Friday’s easier spot.

“We thought two turns off a layoff was too much to ask,” O’Neill said. “We’re expecting him to get better with a few races under his belt.”

A winner of 6 of 27 starts and $517,749, Informed won two Grade 2 races in 2009 – the Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park and San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. He was winless in three starts last year, with the claimer in October his first career appearance in that sort of race since he was taken for $25,000 by the partnership and O’Neill in 2008.

After his final start of 2010, Informed was turned out and had surgery on an ankle. The trainer expects Informed to be in stakes this year, and not in claimers.

“He acts like a stakes horse now,” O’Neill said. “I couldn’t be happier with him and his training. When he’s right, he’s a classy horse.

“We’re thinking stakes with him. It’s one race at a time.”

Don Tito, trained by John Sadler, will be making his first start at Hollywood Park since winning an optional claimer last September. Don Tito was fifth in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes at Santa Anita on April 3, beaten three lengths by Amazombie. Sadler said Don Tito was in traffic late in that race.

“I think we’re well spotted,” Sadler said. “He had trouble or he would have been third. Right at the end, he had to take up. It wasn’t a bad race.”