02/19/2008 1:00AM

Pitts gets two lifts after a downer

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - What's the best medicine for losing a potential Kentucky Derby prospect?

For trainer Helen Pitts, it was watching her Grade 1 winner Einstein turn in one of the best works of his career on Monday morning and then seeing her first-time starter M V P Grand win off the screen later in the afternoon. That helps take the sting out of having Face the Cat sold privately and moved from her barn to trainer Todd Pletcher five days earlier.

Einstein worked five-eighths in 59.80 seconds under regular exercise rider Lorna Chavez here Monday. The work was second-best on the tab at the distance, behind only the 58.80 drill turned in by Fountain of Youth contender Elysium Fields. "He worked awesome," Pitts said.

Einstein returned from an eight-month layoff and won an allowance race on the turf here Jan. 11. He then switched to the main track and ran sixth behind winner Spring at Last in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap four weeks later.

Einstein is nominated for Saturday's Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, a race he won two years ago to give Pitts her career first Grade 1 win.

"Right now I'm still not sure about whether to run him in the stakes this weekend," said Pitts. "I'm 50-50, although we'll probably enter and take a look at the race."

Pitts acknowledged that it's a long year, but added Einstein loves to run.

"He likes the action, he thrives on racing, and I like to catch him when he's doing good," she said. "And after watching this work, there's no question he's doing real good right now."

M V P Grand gave Pitts another reason to smile several hours later, rallying from off the pace to a 5 3/4-length victory while launching his career under an $80,000 claiming tag in race 6. M V P Grand, a son of Grand Slam, is owned by Dale Kalmar.

Gottcha Gold goes back to work

Gottcha Gold breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 Monday in his first recorded work since finishing ninth in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita.

"He worked just the way I wanted for his first since he returned from California," said trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.

Plesa said he was inclined to dismiss Gottcha Gold's performance in the Sunshine Millions.

"Because of the problems they had with the track out there, the first time he ever stepped foot over the surface was when he left the paddock before the race," said Plesa. "Then he was in perfect position when another horse came alongside him, and he just got too aggressive. So I'm just going to throw the whole race out."

Plesa said he will point Gottcha Gold, runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in his 2007 finale, to the Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap here on March 15.

Plesa also said that Bea Oxenberg's Hey Byrn, who dominated a strong field of first-level allowance runners here in his 3-year-old debut last week, will likely have one more start as a prep for the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 29.

"We've had several nice offers to buy the horse, but as of now Bea says she wants to see him run one more time," said Plesa. "The one thing I do believe is that he's really going to improve off his last start, because I felt he was about a work short going into that race."

Day Pass has an excuse

Day Pass, one of Sheik Mohammed's highly touted 2-year-olds in the fall of 2006 but a disappointment at 3, made his 4-year-old debut here Sunday - only to finish far back in the second-level allowance dash under Jose Lezcano. Day Pass's chances were compromised when he stumbled after the break of the seven-furlong race, which was won by Not for Money.

"The jock said he just stumbled, although he's not sure why," said Neil McLaughlin, who saddled Day Pass in the absence of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "He did the same thing the two times he ran and won for us as a 2-year-old."

Game Face gets ready

Game Face, who captured the Old Hat Stakes for 3-year-old fillies in her last start, tuned up for the Grade 2, $150,000 Davona Dale Stakes on March 2 with a sharp five-furlong work in 1:01.20 on Monday morning at the Palm Beach Downs training center.

Game Face worked in company with her Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate Monba, who is running on Sunday in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Game Face appeared best in the work while breezing to the outside of Monba.

Pletcher said he worked the two in company because he wanted a strong drill for both.

"He's coming off a layoff, she's going to run a mile for the first time," he said. "They both should benefit from that type of work."

- additional reporting by Jay Privman