04/08/2010 12:00AM

Informed Decision rested but not rusty

Barbara D. Livingston
Informed Decision will be making her first start in five months in Thursday's Vinery Madison.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - American racing fans have been betting blindly on Jonathan Sheppard for decades. They are keenly aware that the Hall of Fame trainer has been working diligently behind the scenes to have his horses fit and sharp, regardless of time away or an apparent lack of workouts or other variables typically associated with the dreaded "might need a race" syndrome.

This faith in Sheppard will be on display Thursday at Keeneland Race Course, where Informed Decision will make her first start in five months when she returns as the defending champion in the Grade 1, $300,000 Vinery Madison. Although the 5-year-old gray mare shows no published recent workouts, Sheppard said Informed Decision has been breezing regularly in Camden, S.C., from where she was vanned overnight to arrive here early Sunday morning.

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"She worked Friday before she left Camden," said Sheppard, saying the public will be notified, at least, of a five-furlong dirt breeze in 1:03. "She had two strong five-eighths works prior to that. She has trained great, and she seems very sharp since she's been here. I'm very happy with her."

Enough said. Aside from the Sheppard touch, it is the sensational racing record that Informed Decision has amassed for the Augustin Stable of George Strawbridge Jr. that will make her an odds-on favorite over five other fillies and mares in the seven-furlong Madison. From 14 starts, Informed Decision has racked up 11 victories and earnings of more than $1.77 million, with her latest appearance resulting in a victory in the Nov. 6 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and an eventual divisional Eclipse Award.

The top threats to Informed Decision in this ninth running of the Madison are Witty, a California filly with a 4-for-4 career mark, and Dubai Majesty, a gritty Florida-bred with eight career wins and more than $550,000 in earnings. Starlarks, Direct Line, and Dr. Zic complete the field.

Sheppard said he has outlined a "campaign of several races" for Informed Decision leading to a repeat appearance in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.

With a win Thursday, Informed Decision would become just the second horse to win four Keeneland stakes, following Take Charge Lady, who won hers from 2001-03.