05/01/2009 11:00PM

Einstein digs deep for a repeat

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Barbara D. Livingston
Einstein (left) gets up for a head victory over Cowboy Cal in the Woodford, a race Einstein also won in 2008.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Longtime turf star Einstein used his versatility to win the Nov. 28 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on dirt and the March 7 Santa Anita Handicap on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface.

But it was his heart that won him Saturday's Grade 1, $557,600 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs by a head over a game Cowboy Cal.

Stalking the pace in fifth early, as Thorn Song set a legitimate pace of 48.40 second in 1:12.34 over a rain-soaked course labeled "good," Einstein had to call upon all of his energy to inch past Cowboy Cal, who had taken the lead after pressing Thorn Song in second for much of the race.

"I thought Cowboy Cal had me, to be honest," said Helen Pitts, who trains Einstein. "He dug to the bottom of the barrel today."

The winner, a Brazilian-bred 7-year-old son of Spend a Buck owned by Midnight Cry Stable, picked up his fifth Grade 1 victory in the Woodford Reserve, scoring his second consecutive victory in the race while starting in it four years in a row. He raced 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.62 under Julien Leparoux.

One of the most versatile horses in training, Einstein paid $5.60 as the favorite in a nine-horse field.

Cowboy Cal, winner of the San Pasqual Stakes earlier this year at Santa Anita, raced almost too well to lose, a sentiment jockey John Velazquez shared after the race with that colt's owners, Bob and Janice McNair.

"He ran his heart out," he said. "And to get beat like that breaks my heart."

Court Vision rallied from last to make a bid in midstretch before flattening out late to be third, 2 3/4 lengths behind the top pair. Tacking 124 pounds, he carried five pounds more than the top two finishers.

Neither he nor any of the other runners was able to significantly challenge what essentially turned into a two-horse race down the lane.

Zambezi Sun, Thorn Song, Proudinsky, El Caballo, Furthest Land, and Yate's Black Cat completed the order of finish.

Artiste Royal was scratched.