03/10/2007 12:00AM

Einstein wins despite tough trip

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NEW ORLEANS - Florida invader Einstein overcame a nightmare trip to win the Grade 2, $500,000 Mervin H. Muniz Handicap on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Einstein ($8.80), with Robby Albarado aboard, was carried wide into the first turn, then had to avoid the eased favorite King's Drama down the backstretch. Einstein produced a furious rally in the final furlong to win by a half-length over Cloudy's Knight.

There was drama on the front end as well, where James Graham tried to steal the race aboard 64-1 Transduction Gold, who cut the quarter in 23.70 seconds and the half in 47.92.

"I was just hoping he could skip away from them a little more than he did," said Graham.

Meanwhile Albarado was negotiating traffic at the back of the pack.

"I was carried wide going into the first turn," he said. "Then on the backstretch the horse just pulled up in front of me."

Jockey Edgar Prado suddenly eased 9-5 favorite King's Drama, who was chasing the pace, and pulled him to the outside, impeding Einstein.

"He took a couple of bad steps on the backstretch and didn't feel right," said Prado. "Hopefully it's nothing major. It doesn't seem like anything's broken."

Albarado asked Einstein to run late, and he responded. Einstein held off a late charge from Cloudy's Knight, who finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Naissance Royale. Transduction Gold finished another head back in fourth.

"It just proves that he was much the best of these horses," said Albarado.

Einstein covered the 1 1/8 miles over the turf in 1:49.57.

New Orleans Handicap: Master Command, easily

Seven were entered in the Grade 2, $500,000 New Orleans Handicap. On paper, it looked like a two-horse race. But when second choice Liquor Cabinet scratched, it became a one-horse race, and that horse, Master Command, did not disappoint.

Sent off the overwhelming favorite, Master Command got a perfect, stalking trip and then rolled to a 3 1/2-length victory over Patriot Act, mirroring the one-two finish in last month's Mineshaft Handicap here.

Master Command ($2.60), with John Velazquez up, sat just outside of pacesetting Good and Lucky through comfortable fractions of 25.05 seconds, 48.86, and 1:12.75 for the first six furlongs. Master Command took the lead entering the stretch, then kicked clear. He completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:49.89. Patriot Act got up for second, a head in front of late-running Smokeyjonessutton. Good and Lucky faded to finish fourth.

Master Command, 5, has now won three times in his last four starts, beginning with the Meadowlands Breeders' Cup in November. He is lightly raced, having competed just 14 times, with 7 victories.

"He's a big colt," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Master Command for Aaron and Marie Jones. "Being by A.P Indy out of a Lord at War mare, you wouldn't expect him to be a five-furlong horse in May of his 2-year-old year. We gave him plenty of time. We always liked him. Like a lot of A.P. Indys, he's doing better as he's gotten older. And a mile and an eighth is his best distance."

Richard Dutrow Jr., who trains Liquor Cabinet, said his horse was "not right."

"I'm thinking it's his foot, but I'm not sure," Dutrow said. "I think it's a deep bruise."

Dutrow said Liquor Cabinet was en route to Lexington, Ky., to be evaluated by Dr. Larry Bramlage at the Rood and Riddle clinic.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman