05/01/2009 11:00PM

Weight break a bonus for Einstein

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Helen Pitts visits with Einstein on Wednesday. "He's got his game face on," she says.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Einstein is among the most accomplished and versatile older horses in training, having won Grade 1 races on turf and on a synthetic track, as well a Grade 2 on dirt.

So if Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic were a handicap, he would undoubtedly be highweighted, just as he was in carrying 121 pounds in the March 7 Santa Anita Handicap, a race he won by a length.

The Woodford, however, is run under allowance stakes conditions, and they are so favorable to Einstein that it is as if trainer Helen Pitts wrote the race conditions herself.

Horses that have not won $150,000 at a mile or over on turf since Sept. 1 are allowed a five-pound break from high weight of 124 pounds. Einstein has won two races since that time frame, the $1 million Big Cap and the $440,000 Clark Handicap, but they came on synthetic and dirt, respectively.

As a result, he carries five pounds less than Court Vision and three pounds less than Proudinsky - horses weighted more heavily due to having won rich stakes on grass since last fall.

"I love it," Pitts said of the weights.

Not that Einstein needs a lot of help. A 10-time winner, he won this race last year over Out of Control and Artiste Royal, who is back for this year's running.

Einstein is also at his best distance of 1 1/8 miles and has shown the ability to handle a wet course - a distinct possibility with a threat of rain in the forecast in the days leading up to Saturday and on Derby Day itself.

Although unraced for nearly two months, Einstein, a 7-year-old son of Derby winner Spend a Buck, is proven racing fresh, and Pitts insists he is ready for his return.

"He's got his game face on," she said. "You can tell he needs to run."

Julien Leparoux, aboard for Einstein's victories in the Big Cap and Clark Handicap, returns in the irons.

Artiste Royal, winner of the Grade 1 Charlie Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood last year, looms a threat. He won the Grade 1 San Marcos in January before running fifth in the Frank Kilroe Mile and third in the San Luis Rey - with all three races coming at Santa Anita.

Although beaten as the favorite in the San Luis Rey, he broke awkwardly and raced at a 1 1/2-mile distance that was likely beyond his best. The 1 1/8 miles of the Woodford Reserve suits him.

Alan Garcia rides the late-running Artiste Royal, who breaks from post 1.

Court Vision, though carrying top weight of 124, could also prove dangerous with the return to turf, his preferred surface. Before running seventh in the Big Cap on a synthetic surface, he was third in the Gulfstream Park Turf on Feb. 1 and the winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 30. Trainer Bill Mott takes off his blinkers for the Woodford Reserve.