04/09/2009 12:00AM

Ventura, Informed Decision square off

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Benoit & Associates
Ventura will have Garrett Gomez aboard when she breaks from post 4 in the seven-furlong Madison.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - There's still plenty of great racing left at the Keeneland spring meet, but as far as Bobby Frankel is concerned, the $300,000 Vinery Madison Stakes on Thursday might wind up topping them all.

"This might be the best race of the meet," Frankel said.

That opinion might be biased, considering Frankel has the favorite and defending champion, Ventura, in the Madison, which has been upgraded a notch to a Grade 1 for this year's eighth running. But most observers would agree that a matchup between Ventura and Informed Decision, with a few other high-class runners thrown in, should make for terrific action Thursday.

Ventura, the Juddmonte Farms homebred who won the 2008 Madison en route to capping her year with a four-length triumph in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in October, will have Garrett Gomez aboard as usual when she breaks from post 4 in the seven-furlong Madison. The 5-year-old mare has raced twice this year, both times at Santa Anita, winning the Grade 1 Santa Monica before being beaten a nose when facing male rivals in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile.

Frankel said whatever he does this year with Ventura will be with a return trip to the Breeders' Cup in mind.

"I haven't thought too far ahead," Frankel said. "I'd like to win this race first."

Informed Decision, with John Velazquez riding from post 1, looms a serious threat to Ventura. Last seen posting a sensational score in the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes at the Keeneland fall meet, Informed Decision appears primed for a big 4-year-old season after being rested and regrouped over the winter by trainer Jonathan Sheppard.

The Madison appears to lack much pace, which could give any of the three outside horses - Authenicat, Bear Now, and Bsharpsonata - a slight tactical edge, depending on how the race unfolds, although Frankel is not overly concerned.

"There isn't much pace, but I don't think it'll bother my mare because she's got a good turn of foot," he said.

Aside from the two favorites, Bsharpsonata might have the best chance. The multiple graded winner has been in good form since being assimilated into the Southern California string of trainer Todd Pletcher last fall, and her outside post could afford jockey Eibar Coa an unencumbered forward trip.

:: (DRF Plus)