NO PLANS YET FOR EINSTEIN AFTER CLARK – Trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi reported that Stronach Stable’s Einstein (Brz) came out of Friday’s third-place effort behind 3-year-olds Blame and Misremembered in the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade II) in good order.
“He’s real good this morning. He ran great yesterday,” Pitts-Blasi said of Einstein, who overcame an outside post in the field of 14 3-year-olds and up to fall only two necks short of grabbing his third graded stakes victory of the year.
The 7-year-old son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck added $41,914 to his bankroll Friday to boost his career earnings to $2,945,238 and improved his 2009 record to 2-1-3 in eight races.
Whether the Clark was Einstein’s farewell, Pitts-Blasi could not say.
“I haven’t talked with Mr. (Frank) Stronach,” Pitts-Blasi said. “I have no clue what they are going to do with him.”
The strong Clark showing could bolster Einstein’s chances for an Eclipse Award in the wide-open division of champion older male.
“It is a tough question,” Pitts-Blasi said. “He certainly deserves to be in the running, because other than the Breeders’ Cup he showed up whenever he ran.”
Einstein won the Santa Anita Handicap (GI) on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface and took the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) for a second consecutive year on grass at Churchill Downs. Pitts-Blasi’s veteran star was also second by a neck on synthetic Polytrack in the Pacific Classic (GI) at Del Mar and also ran third in his other two traditional dirt races, the Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park and the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs.
KARELIAN’S RIVER CITY RUN REMAINS A MYSTERY – Any chance that Green Lantern Stable’s Karelian would become a repeat winner of Friday’s River City Handicap (GIII) went out the window on the backstretch when the 7-year-old gelding headed toward the outside rail under Rajiv Maragh.
Even though Maragh got Karelian straightened out and back in contention, the best Karelian could do was finish eighth in the field of 10 as the 8-5 favorite. The loss by Karelian was the first for the 7-year-old Bertrando gelding in four races on Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course.
“I don’t know why he did it,” said Jack Bohannan, assistant to trainer Rusty Arnold. “He seems OK this morning. There is nothing wrong with him physically and the equipment was fine. We went over him after the race and again this morning and he’s fine.
“He had done it in the morning before a couple of times in the three or four years Rusty has had him, but he never had done it in a race. It was very odd. I never have seen anything like it. I thought he had pulled up and then here he comes again.”
Bohannan said that Karelian, owned by Green Lantern Stables, would probably be turned out for a while and then join the barn in Florida.
Arnold’s other River City entrant, Ashbrook Farm’s Wicked Style, finished fourth behind 56-1 longshot Rahystrada.
“We were a little disappointed in him,” Bohannan said. “He had trained so well, but he just didn’t finish.”
WIGGINS CLOSES CAREER IN GRAND STYLE – “What a way to finish,” trainer Hal Wiggins said Saturday morning.
With his final starter as a trainer, Wiggins watched as Robert V. Hovelson’s High Spirit closed from far back to win Friday’s 10th race by a nose and pay $55.60 to win under Terry Thompson.
“I didn’t bet a dollar on him,” Wiggins said. “I had a hundred dollar bill in my pocket and I was planning to break it and bet $5 across on him, but I got to talking with a lot of people and never did it.”
What made the win all the more unreal for the 34-year training veteran were the circumstances surrounding the race.
“If it hadn’t been the end of the meet, we probably wouldn’t have run,” Wiggins said. “I had to change riders because Calvin (Borel) was riding for his brother in the race. He was shortening up (from a mile to seven furlongs) and jumping up in class. He was a legit 26-1 shot.
“When I put the saddle on him, I started to think about it being the last one a bit and I spent a little extra time in the stall.”
More than 12 lengths back after a half-mile, Thompson swung High Spirit wide at the head of the lane and began to mow down the field. At the eighth pole, racing in the middle of track, High Spirit was still four lengths off the lead and still managed to win.
“After I took the saddle off, Calvin was waiting for me by the scale and he gave me a big hug,” Wiggins said. “He had won a race for me on Lady Durlyn on Thursday. We go a long way back together. I found an old picture the other day from 1983 at Delta Downs with the two of us the first year he rode.”
So Friday capped a Hollywood ending for Wiggins, almost.
“If Hollywood had written the script, I would still have Rachel,” said Wiggins, who turns 67 on Monday.
Rachel, of course, is Rachel Alexandra, the brilliant 3-year-old filly who Wiggins saddled for owner-breeder Dolphus Morrison and partner Mike Lauffer for a record-smashing 20 ¼-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks (GI) this spring.
Wiggins said that Friday’s victory and Rachel Alexandra’s Oaks triumph would rank high in the top five moments in his career. The day Rachel Alexandra was sold would be at the opposite end of the spectrum.
“It was a low point, no question,” Wiggins said of the morning Rachel Alexandra left his barn for the short journey to new trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn in early May. “But I don’t blame the owner for selling. To hit a home run like that with the size of operation that I have, that doesn’t come around often.
“I sure didn’t foresee a year like this. I thought we would have traveled around the country with her and eventually maybe tried the males once.”
Wiggins, who will stay at Churchill Downs until Tuesday to oversee a couple of works before turning the barn over to his son Lon, retires with a total of 872 victories in a career that began in 1976 and produced its first winner at Evangeline Downs on July 2, 1977. His horses earned a total of $20,218,625 in purses.
“It’s been a great ride and I’ve met a lot of great people,” said Wiggins, who will join his wife Renee in Houston. “I am still going to go to sales and still be involved in it. I love the game so much, I don’t want to quit cold turkey.”
BARN TALK – The day after Amerman Racing Stable’s Demarcation ran eighth in the Clark Handicap instead of going for a repeat bid in the River City Handicap, trainer Paul McGee was asked if he had any regrets about the choice of race. After a long pause, McGee said, “Yeah. A 50-1 shot wins … you just never know.” McGee ran David Holloway’s Dubious Miss in the Clark and he finished sixth. “Both of them are good this morning and they will go to the Fair Grounds for the winter.” …
Also headed to New Orleans was West Point Thoroughbreds’ Clark favorite Macho Again, the winner of the Stephen Foster Handicap who finished ninth. Trainer Dallas Stewart left for the Fair Grounds early Saturday with Macho Again scheduled to follow later in the day. …
Calvin Borel was blanked on nine mounts Friday and remains four victories behind Julien Leparoux (27-23) in the race for leading rider. Borel has 12 mounts on today’s card that Leparoux will not ride because he is in Japan. Shaun Bridgmohan is third in the standings with 17 victories, but his meet is over as he is riding Kodiak Kowboy for trainer Steve Asmussen in the Cigar Mile (GI) at Aqueduct today.…
Dale Romans picked up his 14th winner of the meet Friday to narrow the gap on Asmussen to three in the race for leading trainer. Romans has 10 horses entered today; Asmussen seven. …
Ken and Sarah Ramsey have wrapped up their record 16th leading owner title. The Ramseys have had nine winners this meet and have an unsurmountable advantage over Brereton Jones and the Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, which have five victories each. The title was the fourth consecutive for the Ramseys, who own eight Spring and eight Fall titles, both seasonal records.