The “older male” division has been looking for a new leader ever since the retirement of the 2008 Horse of the Year, Curlin. Saturday’s 72nd running of the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap showed just how wide open that division appeared on paper as thirteen runners vied for the richest race of the winter meet. The race appeared as deep as a Breeder’s Cup championship, with seemingly each horse in the field capable of prevailing. In the end it was the class and versatility of Einstein that made the difference.
Much like we saw on Breeders’ Cup day last fall, horses who have performed strongly over the turf seem to thrive over the Santa Anita Pro Ride. Einstien is now the consummate multiple surface winner, having prevailed on turf, dirt, and synthetics; but I think most players think of him as a much stronger turf runner than a main track runner. That’s an angle you’ve always got to respect on the Pro Ride.
Matto Mondo was sent off as the slight post time favorite and set the early pace travelling the first quarter in :24.52 and the half in :48.31 under jockey Rafael Bejarano. Cowboy Cal stalked the early pace with Heroi Do Bafra and Einstein tucked in just behind him. As the field entered the turn for home, Cowboy Cal and Einstein put the pressure on Matto Mondo. Cowboy Cal was the first to challenge and drew nearly even with him in the turn. Einstein swung wide to the outside and unleashed his run at the top of the stretch.
Leparoux then asked Einstein for his run and he was able to pull away heading for the wire. With Matto Mondo slowly fading, the only remaining challenge was a big late run from Jose Valdivia and Champs Elysees who exploded to the wire for 2nd.
Einstein crossed the finish line in 2:01.93 for his 10th career victory, boosting his earnings to $2,278,020 in 24 lifetime starts. Trainer Helen Pitts would appear to have many options for the colt with his proven ability to run well over any surface he encounters. It’s a long way until Breeders’ Cup weekend 2009, but for now Einstein would appear to be a horse worthy of consideration for the Classic.
The win was huge for me. I had taken a proverbial bath on some of my selections yesterday, including a right good thrashing at the hands of I Want Revenge in the Gotham and a tough loss for Ventura to Gio Ponti in Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap. Stardom Bound came through, but only by the slimmest of margins and not at anything remotely resembling a price. That meant that going into the Big Cap, arguably the best “betting race” we’d seen this year, all of my hopes were down to Einstein at 5/1. I’m not sure if I’ve published this before or not, but we’re actually tracking our public selections over on the TBA homepage. All the standard $20 win bets and superfecta plays I mention here get plugged into this spreadsheet that spits out our ROI. You can tell from looking at the sheet that I’m not very successful with the superfectas, but I have managed to grind out a positive ROI thus far (although take away Einstein’s win and it’s suddenly a negative ROI). Truth be told I need to be a bit more diligent in recording things on here. You can see I’ve gone from just listing the # of the horse to now listing them by name so that it’s easier to track and observe what lessons I can from my errors. Now that I know I can share it with you all publicly that’s the gameplan. In other words, get ready to watch that ROI come dropping down like a meteor.