04/20/2009 11:00PM

Ever-versatile Einstein eyes repeat on turf


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Helen Pitts said she was under the impression that her stable star, Einstein, was in a category all by himself.

"I'm almost sure I've got the only horse to win graded stakes on dirt, turf, and synthetic," said Pitts. "In fact we're just a little shy of being a Grade 1 winner on all three."

Einstein - the extraordinarily versatile 7-year-old whose 10 career wins include the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve on the Churchill Downs turf, the Grade 2 Clark Handicap on the Churchill dirt, and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on Pro-Ride synthetic - actually has a bit more to go to match what Lava Man did in 2006-07 when he won at least one Grade 1 race on dirt, turf and synthetic.

Whatever the case, Einstein is hoping to make history as the first repeat winner in the 23-year history of the $500,000 Woodford Reserve, the race that directly precedes the Kentucky Derby on the May 2 program at Churchill.

The last race for Einstein was his rallying triumph in the March 7 Santa Anita Handicap. Since then he has posted three breezes at Churchill, the latest one coming Sunday in 1:00.40 for five furlongs.

"I thought he went super," said Pitts. "All the hard work is behind him. I'll probably go an easy half Sunday and that'll be it."

At this early juncture, Churchill racing officials are listing just three horses as likely opponents - Cowboy Cal, Court Vision, and Zambezi Sun - although surely at least a few more will run. Entries for all Derby Day races will be drawn next Wednesday.

For the first time, the Woodford will be part of a two-day pick three wager with the Kentucky Oaks and Derby.

Two fatal injuries during training

Tuesday training at Churchill was marred by two separate breakdowns that required both horses to be euthanized.

Daddy's Lilpunkin, a 6-year-old gelding, shattered both sesamoids in his right front ankle when breezing in the upper stretch at about 7:15 a.m., according to trainer Bobby Barnett. Daddy's Lilpunkin won just once in his first 32 starts before winning twice in three starts to end his recent campaign at Fair Grounds.

"He was like the pet around here," said Barnett.

Lady at the Half, a 4-year-old filly coming off a win over Arkansas-bred maiden claimers, shattered a right hind tibia approaching the wire at the end of a workout at about 9 a.m., said trainer Hal Wiggins, who has the solid favorite for the 135th Kentucky Oaks in Rachel Alexandra.

"This business can go both ways, I'll tell you," said Wiggins.

The exercise riders in both incidents escaped without serious injury.

Hooh Why may go out of state

The Kentucky Oaks status for Hooh Why took a new turn early this week when Mark Hoffman, co-owner of the Ashland Stakes winner, said he is leaning toward not running the filly in the May 1 Oaks.

"I want to run in the Oaks, but I don't want to run against Rachel Alexandra," said Hoffman. "She's a monster."

Hoffman had said in the days before and after the April 4 Ashland at Keeneland that Hooh Why probably wouldn't go in the Oaks, then said later that she probably would run. Now she is more likely to race instead in a race at Arlington, Woodbine, or the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico, said Hoffman.

Rachel Alexandra and Justwhistledixie are the clear-cut favorites in the Oaks, which lost Stardom Bound as a major contender last week. About 8 to 10 3-year-old fillies are expected when entries are taken Tuesday.

* The $200,000 Elkhorn Stakes, the closing-day feature on Friday at Keeneland, drew 14 older turf marathoners when entries were taken Tuesday. Among the probable favorites are Champs Elysees, Quasicobra, Better Talk Now, and Always First. Only as many as 12 can start in the Grade 2 turf race.