06/06/2008 12:00AM

Einstein's next stop may be Stephen Foster


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Woodford Reserve winner, Einstein, who was not entered in Saturday's Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park because of a licensing issue involving one of his owners, is "50-50" to run in next Saturday's $1 million Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, trainer Helen Pitts said.

The Foster, a Grade 1 at 1 1/8 miles on dirt, is expected to draw the 2007 Horse of the Year, Curlin, who has not started since winning the Dubai World Cup on March 29. Other probable starters include Brass Hat, Grasshopper, High Blues, Jonesboro, and Red Rock Creek, with Perfect Drift and Sam P. considered possibilities.

Pitts plans to breeze Einstein on Sunday and determine in the following days whether to pursue the Foster or the Firecracker Handicap, a Grade 2, $200,000 turf race at a mile at Churchill Downs on July 4.

"He's not the kind of horse you can sit on for a month and wait for another race," Pitts said, meaning he thrives on racing.

If Einstein runs against Curlin in the Foster, it would make for an intriguing story line. Pitts trained Curlin for his first start, a 12 3/4-length maiden triumph at Gulfstream Park in February of 2007, before majority interest in the colt was sold from Midnight Cry Stables to Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables, Padua Stables, and George Bolton. The horse was then turned over to trainer Steve Asmussen.

Curlin now races solely for Stonestreet Stables and Midnight Cry Stables, who retained 20 percent ownership in the colt.

Shirley Cunningham and William Gallion are Kentucky-based attorneys who race under the name Midnight Cry. Both men have been in jail since last August, accused of misappropriating tens of millions from a $200 million settlement in a case involving the diet drug fen-phen.

Cunningham and Gallion are currently the lessors of Einstein. After racing for Midnight Cry previously, in his last two starts, both in Kentucky, Einstein ran under the names of Patricia Cunningham - the wife of Shirley Cunningham - and Melissa Green, who were listed as lessees of the horse.

According to New York rules, both the lessors and lessees of a horse must be licensed in that state, and Shirley Cunningham's New York owner's license expired eight months ago. That situation led to Einstein not being entered in the Manhattan.

Although campaigned mostly on turf through his 18-race career, Einstein is 2 for 4 on dirt, with both victories coming in the slop, including a maiden victory at Churchill Downs in November 2005.

He finished sixth of eight in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 2 in his most recent dirt race. He then returned to turf racing, winning the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf, running second in the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile, and winning the Woodford Reserve on Derby Day.

Northern Dancer looking tough

Five other stakes complement the Stephen Foster Handicap next Saturday, led by the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis Handicap and Grade 3 Northern Dancer Stakes.

The Northern Dancer, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race for 3-year-olds, is shaping up as a talent-laden race, with Louisiana Derby winner Pyro and Illinois Derby winner Recapturetheglory considered probable starters by Churchill officials. My Pal Charlie and Texas Wildcatter are also pointing for race.

Communique prepping in allowance

When Communique races in a third-level allowance in the third race Sunday at 1 1/16 miles on turf, "nothing about it suits her, except the conditions," trainer Rusty Arnold said.

That said, those conditions do suit her well - which may allow for Communique to successfully cut back in distance after winning the 1 1/2-mile, Grade 3 Bewitch Stakes on April 24 at Keeneland.

Arnold said the distance is less than her best, but the timing of Sunday's race serves as a well-positioned prep toward the Grade 3, $300,000 Robert G. Dick Stakes on July 12 going 1 3/8 miles on the Delaware Park turf course.

Communique's entrymate, Katerbug - both are owned by G. Watts Humphrey Jr. - could prove her greatest adversary. A late runner, she won the Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park last year, but has gone unplaced in her last four starts.

"We thought we'd give her some blinkers, sharpen her up, and hope to not lose contact with the field," Arnold said.