06/15/2009 12:00AM

Informed is O'Neill's latest success story

Benoit & Associates
Informed, a former $25,000 claimer, and jockey Tyler Baze capture the Grade 2 Californian at Hollywood on Saturday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Doug O'Neill won three Hollywood Gold Cups from 2005 to 2007 with the former $50,000 claimer Lava Man. The acquisition of Lava Man back in 2004 was considered one of the finest claims in the history of the sport. He went on to win seven Grade 1 races for a partnership and O'Neill.

This year, for a different group of owners, O'Neill will try to win the Gold Cup on July 11 with the former $25,000 claimer Informed.

Until Informed's upset win in the at Hollywood Park on Saturday, a race such as the Gold Cup seemed out of reach. But without a standout in the California handicap division this year, Informed justified a Gold Cup attempt with his Californian performance.

Ridden by Tyler Baze, Informed closed from fourth in a field of 10 to win the Californian by three-quarters of a length over Rail Trip, the 2-1 favorite. O'Neill credited Baze for keeping Informed in clear of his rivals throughout the 1 1/8 miles.

"I think it was the trip," O'Neill said. "Tyler kept him in a good position and not in a ton of trouble."

Owned by a partnership, Informed was claimed for $25,000 last June from the Bob and Beverly Lewis Trust and trainer Bob Baffert. Before the Californian, his best result in a stakes was a second, by a nose, in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita last January.

Through Sunday, O'Neill led the trainer standings at Hollywood Park with 27 wins, leading closest pursuer John Sadler by 11 victories. O'Neill's stable has been led by a hot 2-year-old division in recent weeks.

"The babies are exciting, and to have a handicap horse is amazing," O'Neill said.

O'Neill thought Slew's Tiznow and Slew's Tizzy would lead his older division this summer, but those horses are sidelined.

Informed has taken the role of leading older male. A 5-year-old horse by Tiznow, he has won 5 of 20 starts and $356,339, and - unlike Lava Man, a gelding - he could have a future as a stallion.

"If he can be a quarter of the horse that Lava was, it will mean so much," O'Neill said. "He's an entire horse."

Gold Cup possible for Rail Trip

Rail Trip will be considered for the Gold Cup, trainer Ron Ellis said Sunday.

Rail Trip stalked pacesetter Ball Four to early stretch of the Californian, took the lead with a furlong remaining and was beaten three-quarters of a length. The Californian was his first start at 1 1/8 miles. The Gold Cup is 1 1/4 miles.

"My first thought is to run him in the Gold Cup," Ellis said. "I think without Ball Four he would have won."

Ellis has a promising 3-year-old sprinter in Truest Legend, who remained unbeaten in two starts this year with a win in an allowance race on Saturday. Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Truest Legend led throughout a six-furlong race, winning by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:08.42.

"He's bred to sprint," Ellis said. " I think I better stay in sprints."

Elusive Bluff slated for Cinema

Elusive Bluff, who has not started since winning the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park last October, will make his California debut in Sunday's $100,000 Cinema Handicap.

Trained by Eric Guillot for Southern Equine Stable, Elusive Bluff has started twice. He won a maiden race at Belmont Park last September for trainer William Badgett before being acquired by Southern Equine.

Elusive Bluff was entered for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita last fall, but was withdrawn because of a bruised foot. He has not started since.

The Grade 3 Cinema is run at 1 1/16 miles on turf for 3-year-olds. The race is not expected to have a large field. The other probable starters include Arden Park, Flashmans Papers, Herr Mozart, and Oil Man.

Saturday's $100,000 Affirmed Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the main track for 3-year-olds is a prep for the $300,000 Swaps Stakes on July 18.

Kelly Leak, who won the Sunland Park Derby in March, beating eventual Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, and Mythical Power, the winner of the Lone Star Derby last month, leads a field expected to include Cape Truth, Graze, Quindici Man, and Scorewithcater.

Bejarano draws three-day suspension

Jockey Rafael Bejarano, who led the standings through Sunday, has been suspended for three days for causing interference in Saturday's sixth race.

Bejarano was cited for his ride on Digestivo, who finished third in a claiming race at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Digestivo drifted to the outside in the stretch and interfered with original fourth-place finisher Sparks Flying. The stewards disqualified Digestivo from third and placed him fourth.

Bejarano's suspension begins on Sunday and continues through June 26.

Through Sunday, Bejarano had 51 wins, three more than Joel Rosario.

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