05/06/2009 11:00PM

Einstein takes aim at Foster


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Having proven himself once again as a top-class turf runner by successfully defending his title in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard last Saturday at Churchill Downs, Einstein will be trying to complete a hat trick of sorts in his next race.

"We're going next in the Stephen Foster," said trainer Helen Pitts.

The June 13 Foster at Churchill is a Grade 1 dirt race, which so far has eluded the grasp of Einstein, the standout Brazilian-bred with more than $2.6 million in career earnings. Einstein already is a Grade 1 winner on turf and synthetics, and only Lava Man is believed to have won Grade 1 races on all three types of surfaces since synthetics came into vogue several years ago.

The Foster, the highlight of the post-Derby segment of the Churchill spring meet, was won last year by the reigning Horse of the Year, Curlin, who went on to be voted the same honor for 2008. Einstein obviously has a long way to go toward such an achievement, but it must be noted that this week he was voted the No. 1 horse in the weekly NTRA poll over such fellow stars as Well Armed, Rachel Alexandra, Mine That Bird, and Zenyatta.

The $750,000 Foster, which is run at 1 1/8 miles, will be run over the same course where Einstein won the Grade 2 Clark Handicap last fall. Churchill is the home track for the 7-year-old horse.

"I just think if we're going to try to get a Grade 1 on the dirt, this is the place to do it," said Pitts. "He loves this track."

Pitts said Einstein came out of his hard-fought victory over Cowboy Cal in the Woodford in excellent shape and that he would resume a schedule of workouts at some point next week.

In all, Einstein has five Grade 1 wins to his credit, having captured the Woodford and Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf twice each and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface in March.

Apprentice has live mount in feature

With no stakes races here this weekend, and with the Churchill racing office continuing to struggle to attract a sufficient number of entries, the best race on the Saturday program is a second-level $52,700 allowance for filly and mare turf sprinters.

Yogi'ssplashofgold, with apprentice Christian Reyes Santiago riding for trainer Wesley Ward, looks like the horse to beat in the eighth of 10 races, especially if she can come close to duplicating the 102 Beyer Speed Figure she earned in her last start at Gulfstream Park. Other logical contenders in a field of nine include Sassifaction, Kiawah's Magic, and According to Plan.

Santiago, an 18-year-old native of Puerto Rico, already has won three races at the meet, including two Wednesday. He will ride with a 10-pound apprentice allowance until his fifth win, when he becomes a seven-pound "double bug."

The Saturday program, like the Thursday and Friday cards, is one race shorter than what racing officials had originally scheduled. Like many North American tracks, Churchill is being hurt by a shortage of entries, owing to competition from other tracks in the region and other factors.

Johnson pleased with Derby call

Mark Johnson has been getting solid reviews for his first call of the Derby. Johnson alertly picked up the winner, Mine That Bird, as he squeezed his way past a wall of horses at the eighth pole.

"I was quite satisfied with the call, at least for a first time," said Johnson, the 43-year-old Briton who became the full-time Churchill race-caller at the start of the spring meet April 25.

While Johnson announced the Derby for the ontrack crowd and simulcast venues, it was Tom Durkin who called for the millions of television viewers for NBC Sports. Durkin, long recognized as one of the all-time greats, had a more difficult time picking up Mine That Bird, finally recognizing him as the winner only after he opened a big lead nearing the wire.

Derby also-rans point to stakes

Two of the Derby also-rans trained by Todd Pletcher will be staying at Churchill with assistant Michael McCarthy with the intent of making their next starts on the Foster undercard.

Join in the Dance, seventh as the Derby front-runner, will be pointed to the $150,000 Northern Dancer at 1o1/16 miles on the main track, while Advice, the Lexington Stakes winner who was 13th in the Derby, will be aimed at the $200,000 Jefferson Cup at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

* Capt. Candyman Can, winner of the Iroquois Stakes here last fall, and Cash Refund, an impressive winner of an entry-level allowance here opening day, head the prospective field of 3-year-olds likely to run in the next stakes on the Churchill schedule, the $100,000, seven-furlong Matt Winn Stakes on May 16.