Midnight Cry Stable's grade I winner Einstein came from the parking lot to capture the $500,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Fair Grounds turf course Saturday.
Breaking from the extreme outside in the field of 11, the Brazilian-bred Spend a Buck horse was ridiculously wide on the clubhouse turn for Robby Albarado. They had to avoid the favorite King's Drama when that one pulled up near the half-mile marker and were only slightly less wide coming off the far turn.
In spite of the problems, Einstein stormed past the tiring leaders mid-stretch and held off the strong closer Cloudy's Night for a half-length triumph. The mare Naissance Royale put in a nice run in the stretch to finish third, two lengths behind the winner. The final time for the about nine furlong distance on firm going was a sharp 1:49 2/5.
“I watched his races this morning on tape,” said Albarado, who was aboard the winner for the first time. “He’s a really nice horse. When I asked him, he responded. He felt the (Cloudy’s Knight) coming to him, and he re-broke.”
For Albarado, it was his record 13th victory in a graded stakes race at Fair Grounds and his fourth win in the Mervin Muniz.
Helen Pitts trains the lightly raced 5-year-old dark bay Einstein, who gained his fifth win in 11 lifetime starts and more than doubled his earnings to $513,472.
“He’s a star,” Pitts said. “He loves the game; he loves to run. He gives it everything he has. That’s just the kind of horse he is.”
Einstein earned his first victory since taking the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup (gr. IT) on a yielding surface more than a year ago. Following a fourth-place finish in the Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs on May 6, Einstein went to the sidelines for the remainder of 2006. He returned in January with a fourth-place finish in a one-mile optional claiming event on the Gulfstream turf, then turned in a strong late run while finishing third in defense of his Gulfstream Park BC triumph, beaten three parts of a length by Jambalaya Feb. 24.
Sent off as the second choice, Einstein paid $8.80, $5.40, and $3.80. Cloudy's Knight, coming off a well-timed win in the Fair Ground Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) Feb. 10, returned $17.20 and $8.40 with Ramsey Zimmerman riding once more. The Irish-bred Naissance Royale, ridden by Garrett Gomez, was $4.40 to show.
The mare was a head better than Transduction Gold, who was followed by Sweet Return, Heat of the Night, Hendrix, Macduff, Desert Wheat, and the Carbon Unit.
The 121-pound high weight King's Drama, the 19-10 choice under Edgar Prado, was forwardly placed in third on the backstretch while racing off the rail but was steered out and pulled up before reaching the turn.
“He took a couple of bad steps on the backstretch and didn’t feel right," Prado said. "Hopefully, it’s nothing major. It doesn’t seem like anything’s broken.”