LOUISVILLE — If there had been a common denominator behind most of Thorn Song's misfortunes this season, the presence of rival Einstein was it.
When Thorn Song attempted Grade I competition for the first time back in February, it was the venerable Einstein that prevailed. When Thorn Song suffered his first career defeat on the Churchill Downs turf in May, he had the Brazilian-bred Grade I winner to thank for that as well.
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On Friday, the 5-year-old Thorn Song finally had bragging rights go his way when he bested Einstein by a length in the Grade II Firecracker Handicap over a yielding turf course at Churchill.
Although Einstein came in with the more decorated résumé, Thorn Song had a few notable advantages helping his cause in their fourth meeting this season.
The son of Unbridled's Song not only carried six fewer pounds than Einstein in the one-mile test, but he had previously shown an affinity for a rain-soaked turf when he captured the Grade III River City Handicap over the same yielding course at Churchill last November.
With his latest victory, Thorn Song also improves to 4-for-5 lifetime over the Churchill turf with his lone loss being a sixth-place finish behind Einstein in the Grade I Turf Classic on May 3.
”I like the fact we got the soft ground. He ran well on it before, and he's doing so good that any little boost he got was going to give him a chance to win,“ said winning trainer Dale Romans. ”Einstein had beaten us three times and we were hoping to beat him today, but not expecting it.“
With little other pace in the five-horse field, Thorn Song shot his way to the front out of post position one and was cruising comfortably under jockey Kent Desormeaux as they hit the half-mile mark in :47.50.
Once they settled in for the stretch drive, Einstein — who rated in third along the hedge down the backstretch — angled out from the rail and mounted a game rally in the final furlong but Thorn Song was still full of run when he crossed the wire in 1:36.69
”I was confident, I just didn't know which Einstein would show up,“ said Desormeaux, who is now four wins away from 5,000 for his career. ”He had to run, he was really full of run today. He was tested turning for home and I used him and he answered all the right questions. I think he enjoys the mile and that is another positive for him.“
Einstein, who was coming off a second-place finish to reigning Horse of the Year Curlin in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap on the main track two weeks ago, put on an admirable showing considering the mile is his least preferred distance.
”Going a mile you're having to chase him all the way and he had to move a little sooner than what he'd like,“ said Einstein's trainer Helen Pitts. ”But he did what he had to do and hopefully it will set him up good for the Arlington Million.“
Einstein was half a length in front of Steve's Double in third.
Owned by Zayat Stables, Thorn Song has won six of 19 career starts with earnings of $517,981. Romans was undecided on the next start but said Saratoga was likely.