10/25/2008 12:00AM

Albertus Maximus scores breakthrough win


ARCADIA, Calif. - For months, the expectations for Albertus Maximus exceeded his reach. He was tried in major stakes races, and while he nibbled at minor prizes, he never landed the big one.

But this summer, Brandon and Marianne Chase, who bred and own the 4-year-old colt, decided to make a trainer change, to Vladimir Cerin. Perhaps that made the difference, perhaps Albertus Maximus was about to break through through maturity, but no more excuses will need to be made, because on Saturday at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, Albertus Maximus won the biggest race of his career when he rallied to take the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

Under jockey Garrett Gomez, Albertus Maximus ($14.60) beat the late-running Rebellion by 1 1/4 lengths, with Two Step Salsa, the early pacesetter, fading to third, another half-length back. My Pal Charlie was fourth and was followed, in order, by Mast Track, Pyro, Lewis Michael, Lord Admiral, favored Well Armed, Slew's Tiznow, Slew's Tizzy, and Surf Cat.

Albertus Maximus completed one-mile on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface in 1:33.41. The victory was his fifth in 15 starts. He had won two races earlier this year, the Windy Sands Handicap at Del Mar in his first start for Cerin, and an allowance race at Hollywood Park when trained by Gary Mandella.

Albertus Maximus was making only his third start for Cerin, who said he believed Albertus Maximus benefited from a visit to a hyperbaric chamber that the trainer has at his farm in nearby Bradbury, Calif.

"He did have a visit after his last workout to help him recover a little bit," Cerin said.

Albertus Maximus was well back early as Two Step Salsa sped through fractions of 22.24 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.02 seconds for a half-mile. As the field raced around the far turn, Albertus Maximus drafted in behind My Pal Charlie, who launched a bid that took him from eighth to first. My Pal Charlie could not sustain his run, but Albertus Maximus was strong to the wire.

Well Armed had beaten Albertus Maximus in the Goodwood Stakes four weeks ago, but he never looked comfortable in the Dirt Mile. Aaron Gryder, who rode Well Armed, said he got bounced around on the first turn, and then Well Armed never got into a proper rhythm.

Mast Track participated in the race after having a patch applied to a quarter crack on the outside of his right front hoof on Saturday morning. His status had been in doubt all week, beginning Monday, when the crack was first discovered, and Bobby Frankel, his trainer and owner, said "it wasn't meant to be."

Frankel entered Mast Track on Tuesday, but had fresh doubts again on Thursday. By Saturday morning, though, Mast Track passed a veterinarian's examination required of all runners, and Frankel said Mast Track was "100 percent."