Big 'Cap Win a No-Brainer for Einstein
Einstein became the first East Coast shipper since Broad Brush in 1987 to capture the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO), capitalizing on a perfect trip with jockey Julien Leparoux to defeat the late closer Champs Elysees in the $1 million event.
Einstein found a perfect stalking position in fourth place on the outside as lukewarm 9-2 favorite Matto Mondo, pushed along by Cowboy Cal , carved slow fractions into the stretch. Einstein, advancing on the outside, struck the lead approaching the eighth pole and opened a clear advantage under urging, holding Champs Elysees and Jose Valdivia Jr. safe in deep stretch.
“I got a good trip. I got him covered up, and the race went like we expected," Leparoux said. "I expected Johnny (Velazquez on Cowboy Cal) and Rafael (Bejarano on Matto Mondo) to go. I expected to be third or fourth. I came running on the last turn, and we made a good run at the finish.
Matto Mondo, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, finished a neck back in third with the outsider Monba fourth. Thirteen horses, after the scratch of morning line favorite Colonel John, competed.
Blue Exit, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, was pulled up on the far turn and was taken off the track by van. Track officials told Associated Press that the 4-year-old Pulpit colt was later euthanized due to his injuries. Jockey Robby Albarado was not injured.
"He (Julien Leparoux) rode him absolutely beautiful," said Pitts, a former assistant to Ken McPeek who has trained Einstein for his entire career. "They’re a great team, those two. It’s an unbelievable feeling. It just means the world to me. He was very comfortable with this track from the time he got here. I worked him on the grass, and I galloped him on the grass, and he felt very similar on the Pro-Ride."
Champs Elysees, winner of the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) Dec. 6, returned $19.40 and $11.60.
"I got lucky when Bobby Frankel gave me a call in the Hollywood Turf Cup, and I’ve been begging him to run him back over this stuff," Valdivia said of the Pro-Ride. "Man, we were just second best. I was gaining on that winner, but the pace didn’t help. The winner had a real good trip. Even though I had a great trip, I think if the pace had been a little hotter, we would have had a better chance at the end. But take nothing away from the winner, his first time running over this stuff.”
Matto Mondo was the narrow favorite off his 3 1/4-length win in the off-the-turf Thunder Road Handicap (gr. III) Feb. 7 for trainer Richard Mandella. He paid $5.20 to show. Getting off the rail shortly after the start, he set comfy fractions of :24.52, :48.31 and 1:12.93 with Cowboy Cal close up, and kept fighting through the lane while edged for the place spot by Champs Elysees.
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