Midnight Cry Stable’s Einstein (BRZ) will carry high weight of 124 pounds and concede from 2-11 pounds to seven rivals Saturday as he attempts to become the first horse to win three consecutive Grade I races on three surfaces in the 28th running of the $600,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.
The Stephen Foster, which serves as the centerpiece of an action-packed 11-race program that features four other graded stakes, will be the 10th race on the “Reunion Day” card at approximately 5:29 p.m. (all times Eastern). First post time is 12:45 p.m. and grandstand admission gates open at 11:30 a.m.
Trained by Helen Pitts-Blasi, Einstein will again be ridden by Julien Leparoux who guided Einstein to victory in the March 7 Santa Anita Handicap over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface and the May 2 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.
Only Lava Man, who retired from racing last July, has won Grade I races on three surfaces, but he did not do it consecutively.
Einstein, a 7-year-old son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck, will break from post position three in the 1 1/8-mile main track race. Boasting a career mark of 25-11-3-2 with earnings of $2,609,904, Einstein ran second in last year’s Stephen Foster behind Horse of the Year Curlin.
Of the 11 victories, seven have come in graded stakes with five being in Grade Is. No other Stephen Foster entrant boasts a Grade I victory, but the other seven starters have combined to win 14 graded stakes.
The most accomplished of those is Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s Asiatic Boy (ARG), who will make his United States debut under the care of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. A winner of four graded stakes in Dubai, Asiatic Boy has captured seven of 15 starts with earnings in excess of $3 million.
McLaughlin won the 2007 Stephen Foster with Flashy Bull.
Alan Garcia rides Asiatic Boy, who will break from post position seven and carry 122 pounds.
Three Stephen Foster starters will carry 118 pounds: Arson Squad, a three-time graded stakes winner, Finallymadeit, also a three-time graded stakes winner who has won 12 stakes in his career with 11 of those coming at Calder, and Researcher, winner of the Grade III Queens County Handicap at Aqueduct last fall.
Drawing 117-pound imposts are Macho Again, winner of last year’s Derby Trial here and subsequent victor in the Grade II Jim Dandy and New Orleans Handicap, and Bullsbay, a perfect 3-for-3 at Churchill Downs including a May 1 victory in the Alysheba (Grade III).
The field for the Stephen Foster, from the rail out (with jockey, assigned weight and Mike Battaglia’s morning line odds): Alphabet Magic (Tony Farina, 113 pounds, 30-1), Macho Again (Robby Albarado, 117, 10-1), Einstein (Julien Leparoux, 124, 2-1), Arson Squad (Garrett Gomez, 118, 4-1), Researcher (Calvin Borel, 118, 4-1), Bullsbay (Jeremy Rose, 117, 10-1), Asiatic Boy (Alan Garcia, 122, 7-2) and Finallymadeit (Eduardo Nunez, 118, 8-1).
Since achieving Grade I status in 2002, the Foster has produced three horses that went on to earn “Horse of the Year” titles: 2003 runner-up Mineshaft, 2005 winner Saint Liam and last year’s champ Curlin.
In 1998, Awesome Again and Silver Charm ran 1-2 in the Grade II Foster and then came back in less than five months to duplicate the finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
In 1991, when the Stephen Foster was a Grade III event, Black Tie Affair (IRE) won the race, the first of six consecutive victories in a Horse of the Year campaign that included a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Churchill Downs.