Informed Decision went from hopelessly beaten to Grade I winner in a handful of strides Thursday, running down Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Ventura in the final yards to take the $300,000 Vinery Madison at Keeneland by a head.
Ventura came into the 7-furlong Madison as the overwhelming favorite after winning the Grade I Santa Monica Handicap in her season debut on Jan. 31 and running second by a nose against males in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Handicap on March 7.
The late-running mare looked like she was on her way to the ninth win of her career when she angled out from the rear of the six-horse field and came flying five-wide down the middle of the lane as Informed Decision dropped to fourth.
Ventura forged ahead with about a sixteenth of a mile remaining, but a gritty Informed Decision — making her first start since October — suddenly reappeared between horses on the inside and kicked home gamely to hit the wire in 1:21.64.
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"I must admit when Ventura rolled by, I thought 'Another day.'" said Jonathan Sheppard, trainer of Informed Decision. "I thought we'd be lucky to get third. I don't know how she kept it up. ...
"I thought our main chance to beat (Ventura) would be if we were a couple lengths in front at the eighth pole, then we could hang on. But (Informed Decision) does close well."
Though Ventura was the "it" girl heading into the Madison, Informed Decision has also been a force in the sprinting ranks, winning six of eight lifetime starts including the Grade II Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland last Oct. 18.
Considering the length of her layoff since that victory, jockey John Velazquez didn't want to ask too much too soon of the daughter of Monarchos — a tactic he nearly came to regret.
"I didn't want to move until I saw (Ventura)," Velazquez said. "When she passed me I thought, 'Oh, I guess I waited too long.' Finally (Informed Decision) got between horses and kicked on.
"She did it for me because I fell asleep a little too long."
Bear Now held on for third with pacesetter Dubai Majesty coming home fourth.
Informed Decision's mettle kept her unbeaten in three career starts at Keeneland. However, Ventura's laid-back attitude came back to bite her once again.
"She quits. Once she makes the lead she'll run about 50 yards and then she loses focus," jockey Garrett Gomez said. "I wish we could have followed Informed Decision. It's cost her before in the CashCall Mile (last July), but she's a super mare."