In many ways, Einstein already represents the ultimate rarity in horse racing.
At the ripe age of 7, the dark bay horse still steps onto a track to train most mornings rather than entering a breeding shed.
With the exception of his 3-year-old season, the son of Spend a Buck has notched at least one graded stakes win in each of the past four years — five of which have been Grade I triumphs.
About the only accomplishment still out there to conquer is a Grade I win on dirt. And should he pull that off Saturday, his extraordinary résumé would include a feat that is virtually without peer.
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Einstein will attempt to become the first horse to win three consecutive Grade I races on three different surfaces when he starts in the $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap against seven others at Churchill Downs.
Though the gelding Lava Man did score Grade I wins on dirt, turf, and synthetic tracks, those triumphs were not consecutive. With his 1-length win in the Santa Anita Handicap over the Pro-Ride surface March 7 and his narrow triumph in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill May 2, Einstein comes into the 11⁄8-mile Stephen Foster in perhaps the sharpest form of his 25-race career.
"It's hard (to have that longevity) but when you have a good horse like him, it makes everything easier," his trainer, Helen Pitts-Blasi, said. "It would be phenomenal for him and for the sake of his stallion career if he could get a Grade I on dirt.
"I think he probably gets over the turf and synthetic easier than he does dirt, but he always tries hard. He loves the game and shows up every time."
The affection Pitts-Blasi has for Einstein is more than that of a trainer admiring the top runner in her barn.
Both horse and trainer began their careers in 2005, and together they have managed to raise their own level even as their competition became more stout.
Last year, when Pitts-Blasi trained a career-high 35 winners, Einstein put together his best season to date when he notched two Grade I wins, ran second to two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in the Stephen Foster, and showed he had top dirt form by beating Grade I winner Commentator in the Grade II Clark Handicap at Churchill.
Einstein was an Eclipse Award finalist for both champion turf male and older male in 2008, categories he is a front-runner to take this year.
"He's just meant a lot to me," Pitts-Blasi said. "He got me to where I am and put me on the map. He's matured a lot. He used to play around a lot and rear up but he's really grown up now."
His affinity for Churchill makes this the ideal spot for Einstein to get his Grade I dirt win. But some think this could be the best chance to catch the ever-improving Brazilian-bred runner.
"I feel like Einstein is the horse to beat, but we are getting him on his worst surface," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who will saddle former U.A.E Triple Crown winner Asiatic Boy in the Stephen Foster. "He's good on everything, but the dirt is his least favorite of the three so we might be able to get to him here."
Einstein will also have to carry the high weight of 124 pounds in the race, two more than Asiatic Boy and 11 more than long shot Alphabet Magic.
Among the sleepers in the Stephen Foster field could be Grade III winner Researcher, who took the Charles Town Classic last time out, and the talented but inconsistent Macho Again. Macho Again captured the Derby Trial at Churchill last year and went on to win the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes as a 3-year-old and the Grade II New Orleans Handicap this past March.
The gray son of Macho Uno has tossed in some clunkers, however, like his sixth-place finish in the Grade III Alysheba Stakes on May 1, and he needs to get the proper pace in front of him in order to be effective.
"I think he's just getting started, really," trainer Dallas Stewart said. "He needs a bit of pace and he needs to stay out of trouble. But I feel a mile and an eighth is his best distance, absolutely."