03/09/2009 12:00AM

Einstein a pro on every surface

Email
Benoit & Associates
Einstein (right) and Julien Leparoux power home for a length victory in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, giving the 7-year-old major wins on dirt, turf, and synthetic.

ARCADIA, Calif. - It takes a real Einstein to do it all.

After winning major stakes on turf and dirt earlier in his career, Einstein, a 7-year-old horse, won his first race on a synthetic track in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

Not only was the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap the richest win of Einstein's 24-race career, but it provided the race with an element of history. Trainer Helen Pitts is the first woman to win the 72-year-old event.

"It feels special to be part of it, to be part of history," Pitts said.

Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Einstein was always within three lengths of the lead, took command in early stretch, and won by a length over 27-1 Champs Elysees. Einstein ($12) ran 1 1/4 miles on the Pro-Ride synthetic track in 2:01.93.

"He was having what I thought was my dream trip," Pitts said. "I thought if he had that opportunity to have that kind of trip, he'd be there for us."

Matto Mondo, sent off as the 9-2 favorite in what was perceived as a wide-open race, set a modest pace of 24.52 and 48.31 seconds, leading by a length over Cowboy Cal on the backstretch. Leparoux had Einstein in third or fourth position on the backstretch, racing three wide.

"I expected to be third or fourth," said Leparoux. "I came running on the last turn, and we made a good run at the finish."

Leparoux said he had to move toward Matto Mondo earlier than he would have preferred on the final turn. "I think if we could have waited a little longer, we would have won much easier than that," he said. "He's a good horse on the turf. He's a good horse on the dirt. He's a good horse on anything."

Matto Mondo finished third, a half-length in front of Monba, who was followed by Magnum, Dansant, Court Vision, Cowboy Cal, Zambezi Sun, Stream Cat, Cause, and Heroi Do Bafra.

Colonel John was scratched early Saturday because of a temperature.

The race was marred by the breakdown of Blue Exit, the runner-up in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on Feb. 7. Blue Exit was pulled up on the turn with an ankle injury and was taken back to the barn to be evaluated, according to track stewards.

Einstein has won 10 of 24 starts and $2,278,020 for Midnight Cry Stable. The Big Cap was his sixth stakes win. His list of accomplishments includes the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and the Grade 2 Clark Handicap on dirt at Churchill Downs, both in 2008.

Pitts said Einstein's Big Cap victory in his first start on a synthetic track is likely to lead her to bring the horse back to California for the Breeders' Cup Classic in November, and possibly a major stakes race in California during the summer.

"It opened up a whole new angle if he liked it," she said. "I think it increases his value tremendously."