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Sep 24, 2010

Breeders' Cup preview held at Presque Isle

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - A pair of potential Breeders' Cup champions were on display this past weekend at Presque Isle Downs in beautiful Erie, PA. Gayego and Informed Decision posted victories in stakes races on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Former Arkansas Derby winner Gayego came up as the victorious 6-5 favorite in Friday night's $245,825 Presque Isle Mile. The five-year-old, with Alan Garcia riding, posted a two-length win over eight rivals on the synthetic Presque Isle surface.

"It was a tough field, with Mambo Meister, last year's winner (Cherokee Artist) and Successful Dan," said Rick Mettee, chief North American assistant for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "Successful Dan's a pretty good horse. He tried to come back on Gayego when we hit the front."

The one-mile victory at the northwestern Pennsylvania track sets up Gayego for a start in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs on November 6. Churchill Downs, where Gayego ran in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, has a natural dirt main track.

"We're going to take him back to Belmont Park in New York," said Mettee. "The one-turn mile (at Churchill) would be fine for him, But we have a few other horses who could go in that spot, Vineyard Haven, Regal Ransom. A lot depends upon what shakes out in early October. But the Dirt Mile is certainly a race we'll keep in mind.

"Gayego's five-years-old now, and he might not want to sprint with the really good sprinters anymore. Saeed gave me the impression that if he really did good at Presque Isle, a mile in the Breeders' Cup would be the logical distance to shoot for."

Owned by Godolphin Racing, Gayego was fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint only a head behind winner Dancing in Silks. The 2008 Arkansas Derby winner has earned $1,652,120 in 19 career starts with eight wins.

The next night, Augustin Stable's Informed Decision successfully defended her title in the $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes for fillies and mares at 6 1/2-furlongs.

The 2009 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner was a 3-5 favorite in the 11 horse field. Jockey Julien Leparoux guided the five-year-old mare from last to first, finally taking the lead right before the wire.

"It took a tremendous effort for Informed Decision to recover from that early stumble," said Leparoux. "We were last, but then she got moving and just ran right around everybody. She's still one of the best in the country at what she does."

The 2009 champion female sprinter was forced wide around the turn for home. Trained by Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, Informed Decision defeated Dubai Majesty by a head with Sweet Lorena in third a neck behind the runner- up.

"Informed Decision just showed a lot of heart, and Julien was very cool and patient, he didn't panic," Sheppard said. "Quite frankly, I thought she was too far back early, and I didn't think she was going to get there. But once Informed Decision got clear in the stretch, she seemed to have her mind set on catching the horses in front of her."

Sheppard and owner George Strawbridge, Jr. will decide on the mare's schedule leading to the Breeders' Cup.

"We'll keep her at Presque Isle for a few more days, and then take her to my farm in West Grove, Pennsylvania," the trainer noted. "Ashwell Stable is its name, it has about 300 acres. And from there we'll see. We had a couple of tentative plans depending upon how well things went tonight (Saturday). We're going to sit down and have a chat about it."

The daughter of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos has won 14 of 20 career starts for $2,194,426. While last year Informed Decision lost only once in seven starts, this year she has three wins in six starts.

On July 4, the mare won the Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park and on July 27, she was a wire-to-wire winner of the Windward Stakes at Presque Isle. Her first two starts this year were third-place finishes in the Madison at Keeneland and Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs. She was coming off a sixth- place result as the favorite in Saratoga's Ballerina Stakes prior to the Masters.

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