03/08/2009 11:00PM

Einstein will be back to California


ARCADIA, Calif. - Eastern-based Einstein earned a return trip to California later this year, and maybe for more than one occasion, with his victory in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

Trainer Helen Pitts said Saturday that races such as the Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic at Del Mar this summer are "options for sure."

Pitts has the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November as a long-term goal for the 7-year-old Einstein, who won the most lucrative race of his career in the Big Cap.

Einstein showed his versatility, winning for the first time on a synthetic track. He recorded graded stakes wins on a conventional dirt surface and turf last year.

Einstein won the Big Cap by a length, stalking pacesetter Matto Mondo to early stretch and holding off a late threat from Champs Elysees.

"It would have surprised me if he hadn't run a good race," Pitts said. "He's put in some pretty special races. I thought this was pretty special."

A winner of 10 of 24 starts and $2,278,020 for Midnight Cry Stable, Einstein will be sent to Florida for the rest of March before being shipped to Kentucky in April. Pitts said the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Churchill Downs on May 2 is a possibility for Einstein's next start.

Einstein won the 2008 Woodford Reserve.

Future plans for Big Cap runners

Trainer Bobby Frankel said Sunday that he does not have an immediate start in mind for Champs Elysees but that the 6-year-old will have a limited campaign this year.

"I'm not going to run him too many more times," Frankel said. "He'll run five or six times this year."

Champs Elysees was 12th for the first six furlongs of the Big Cap and closed with a wide run.

"He was really finishing," Frankel said.

Matto Mondo, the 9-2 favorite, partially tore off a front shoe during the race but was not injured, trainer Richard Mandella said. Matto Mondo will be rested for the Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park in late spring.

Monba, who finished well through the final sixteenth to run fourth, losing by 1 3/4 lengths, will start in the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland on April 19, trainer Todd Pletcher said.

"He ran a sneaky good race," Pletcher said. "He was off the bridle from the half-mile to the five-sixteenths and came back on well. He'll jump up and run a big one. We don't know when it will be."

Pletcher was disappointed with Cowboy Cal, who won the San Pasqual Handicap and Strub Stakes earlier in the meeting. In the Big Cap, Cowboy Cal was second to the top of the stretch but faded to finish eighth, losing by 5 1/4 lengths.

"He didn't behave very well yesterday," he said. "He was upset behind the gate. I don't think he ran his race."

Pletcher said the Woodford Reserve is a possibility for Cowboy Cal.

Colonel John and Tiago, who did not start in the Big Cap, have not resumed training after setbacks last week.

Colonel John, scratched on race morning, has been diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, trainer Eoin Harty said. The Big Cap was supposed to have been Colonel John's first start since a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in December. The winner of the Travers Stakes and Santa Anita Derby last year, Colonel John was briefly sidelined in January because of a pulled muscle.

"It will cost him some time," Harty said. "It seems to be one thing after another."

Tiago was not entered in the Big Cap after losing his appetite last week, trainer John Shirreffs said. While Shirreffs said Tiago's "vital signs were stable," the horse's health is being closely watched.

The Big Cap was marred by a fatal breakdown suffered by Blue Exit, the runner-up in the Strub Stakes. He suffered an ankle injury on the turn and was euthanized. Owned by the Blue Exit Partnership and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Blue Exit won 4 of 9 starts and $178,178.

Frankel gets a win and two seconds

Frankel nearly had a career day on Saturday. Aside from Champs Elysees's runner-up finish, Frankel won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks with Stardom Bound and finished second in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile, by a nose, with Ventura.

Stardom Bound, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2008, made her final start for Frankel in the Santa Anita Oaks. She will be sent to trainer Richard Dutrow at Keeneland later this month, part of an arrangement made last winter. Owned by a partnership led by IEAH Stables, Stardom Bound was perfect in two starts for Frankel this winter, having won the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes in February.

Stardom Bound won the Santa Anita Oaks by a nose, and Frankel said he will recommend that she make her next start in the Kentucky Oaks on May 1.

Ventura faced males in the Kilroe and was beaten on the wire by Gio Ponti.

"She's lost two photos like that," Frankel said, recalling Ventura's narrow loss in the Grade 2 CashCall Mile against females at Hollywood Park last summer.

"A mile over two turns is stretching her a bit, at least against the boys," he said.

Ventura will return to racing against females in the $300,000 Madison Stakes at seven furlongs at Keeneland on April 9.

Gio Ponti won his first Grade 1 in the Kilroe. He is likely to be given a break and return to racing in the spring, in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park on June 6.

Pioneerof the Nile drills for stakes

Pioneerof the Nile, winner of the CashCall Futurity and Robert Lewis Stakes in his last two starts, worked five furlongs in 58.80 seconds Sunday, preparing for Saturday's $200,000 San Felipe Stakes.

Pioneerof the Nile will be heavily favored in the Grade 2 San Felipe at 1o1/16 miles. The race is a key prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 4.

Pioneerof the Nile's time was the fastest of 85 recorded works at the distance.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Pioneerof the Nile will have few opponents in the San Felipe. Bittel Road, fourth in the CashCall Futurity and Lewis Stakes, is a candidate for the San Felipe or the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park on March 21.

Trainer Darrell Vienna said Santamonicacanyon, second in an allowance race Feb. 22, may start in the San Felipe. Vienna doubts that Pioneerof the Nile will have many rivals.

"No one wants to have their dreams drowned by Pioneerof The Nile," he said.

New Bay, winner of a six-furlong allowance race on Feb. 16, will be entered, but is more likely for the Pasadena Stakes on turf Sunday, trainer Richard Mandella said.

"Bob's horse is too far along for me to jump into that," Mandella said. "I might enter to keep the option open."

Velazquez receives Woolf Award

Champion jockey John Velazquez was honored with the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award between races Sunday. The Woolf Award honors jockeys for their success on the racetrack and personal character.

During a brief ceremony, Velazquez, 37, thanked his family and paid tribute to several past winners who were in attendance.

"I'm just speechless to see all the people here," he said. "I'm grateful to be among the winners."

Velazquez was a winner of a different sort Sunday, riding Power Blitz to victory in the day's second race. Velazquez, who won Eclipse Awards as the nation's outstanding jockey of 2004 and 2005, is currently based at Gulfstream Park.