07/05/2009 11:00PM

Sheppard blazing a trail to Chicago


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - A horse shuttle runs from Keeneland and Churchill to Arlington Park, bringing Kentucky horses to race in suburban Chicago. The equine travel route from Illinois to the far side of Pennsylvania is a road much less traveled, but a significant one this summer.

Informed Decision headed back to Presque Isle Downs in western Pennsylvania on Saturday night, not too many hours after she had waltzed to victory in the Chicago Handicap at Arlington. The filly had been moved to Presque Isle some 10 days earlier, after training for nearly two months at Jonathan Sheppard's farm on the eastern side of Pennsylvania.

Monday morning, Informed Decision was back aboard a horse trailer headed east from Presque Isle to Sheppard's farm. But that same trailer will return to Presque Isle in coming days with Just as Well on board, and Just as Well, Sheppard said Monday, probably is on the same two-stage trip as Informed Decision. After galloping a couple days at Presque Isle, he is likely to continue west to Arlington on Thursday to start here Saturday in the Arlington Handicap.

"He seems good now, and if it's not an overly strong or deep field, I think we'll come," Sheppard said of Just as Well, a close second in the Dixie Stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico in his most recent start.

As for Informed Decision, all seems well with her following a walk in the park Saturday. Allowed to lead early in a paceless race, Informed Decision shrugged off Authenicat in upper stretch, and pulled quickly away to win the Chicago Handicap by almost five lengths for her fifth straight victory.

If everything goes smoothly, Informed Decision will race next in the Grade 1, $300,000 Ballerina Stakes on Aug. 29 at Saratoga, said Sheppard.

"This allows enough time to give us a couple easy weeks," said Sheppard. "We can let her down just a little bit before trying to build back up for the Ballerina."

Sheppard said Informed Decision would be shipped to Saratoga "about three weeks" in advance of her intended start.

Just as Well is not in the same league as Informed Decision, but has turned into a solid grass horse the last two seasons after missing almost two years because of an injury. Just as Well has yet to win a stakes, but finished second to Kip Deville in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap this past winter, and was third in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile before his second in the Dixie.

Sheppard had not been pointing Just as Well to the Arlington Handicap, but was encouraged by Arlington stakes coordinator Craig Lytel to consider the race, and was pleased with a Saturday morning grass work the horse turned in at Sheppard's farm.

"We were lucky enough to have two nights in a row with a little bit of rain, and we were able to give him a good work," said Sheppard. "He actually worked really well."

Just as Well, if he comes, will be part of an appealing field in the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Handicap. Defending champion Stream Cat, who worked a quick five furlongs Monday at Arlington, is expected to run, as is Silverfoot, fourth in the 2008 Arlington Million, and Thabazimbi, third in the Louisville Handicap last out for trainer Bill Mott.

Tizaqueena's trip all for naught

As planned, Tizaqueena shipped without incident from Arlington to Churchill on Friday in order to run Sunday in the Locust Grove Handicap. But that is where the plan broke down.

The Churchill turf course was sodden from rain, and trainer Mike Stidham did not like the look of things, despite the fact that Tizaqueena had won the Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill in May over a course rated good.

"It was a wetter, softer turf than that," Stidham said. "It's the end of the meet, so the turf is chewed up, plus they had all the rain."

So, instead of racing, Tizaqueena got back aboard a horse trailer and came back to Arlington on Sunday. Monday morning, she worked a sharp five furlongs in 1:00 under E.T. Baird, who will ride her if Tizaqueena is redirected to the Modesty Handicap on Saturday.

"We're going to look at the Modesty," said Stidham, who did not fully commit Tizaqueena to the race.

The Modesty is one of three graded stakes scheduled for Saturday's Million Preview Day card. Also on the card is the Arlington Sprint, headed by Chamberlain Bridge, as well as two overnight stakes races.

The Modesty figures to have as a favorite Pure Clan, who finished second to Acoma but ahead of Tizaqueena in the Mint Julep Stakes at Churchill. Also expected for the modesty is New York-based Dynaforce.

Giant Oak has final derby work

Giant Oak, who won the Arlington Classic last out, had his final work for Saturday's Grade 2 American Derby on Monday morning, going five furlongs in 1:02.60.

"He had a very even five furlongs, and came out of it in fine order," said trainer Chris Block.

Giant Oak's major work for the American Derby came between races on June 28, when he breezed a strong seven furlongs on turf.

A field of eight or nine is possible for the American Derby, with Cinema Handicap winner Oil Man reportedly coming in from California for trainer John Sadler.

Saturday's card will be drawn Wednesday.