April 27, 2015
Source: BloodHorse.com (Written by: Claire Novak)

Jimmy Jerkens won the $200,000 Excelsior Stakes (gr. III) April 25 at Aqueduct Racetrack, just not with the horse most expected.

Instead of 3-5 favorite Wicked Strong winning in his second start of the season for Jerkens, it was his 6-1 Effinex who made a sweeping move on the final turn and put away pacesetter Red Rifle to secure the three-quarter length victory in the 1 1/4-mile test.

The win was the first graded stakes and second victory in a row for the 4-year-old Mineshaft   runner, who took a March 27 allowance event going a mile and 70 yards on the inner track at Aqueduct by 3 1/2 lengths in his first start of 2015.

“(Effinex) had a long campaign last year, going against older horses,” Jerkens said. “After he ran lackluster on New Year’s Eve (a fourth-place finish in the Alex M. Robb Stakes), we decided there was no sense in knocking him out (with a winter campaign). We thought that if we gave him a late spring campaign, we could give him his best shot to become a better horse, because he had run pretty hard last year. We don’t have anything planned for him, we’ll bring him back to the barn and evaluate when he comes back.”

Effinex did have a previous stakes win for Tri-Bone stables, however, in the 2014 Empire Classic, in which Jerkens tried the same blinkers the bay runner wore in his Excelsior score.

Jockey Angel Arroyo took Effinex well back off the pace in the Excelsior, trailing fifth in a field of six as Red Rifle showed the way through early fractions of :24.55, :49.23, and 1:12.70. Wicked Strong was alert on that rival’s heels after breaking a step slow, but when the field turned for home, he had no closing kick.

Meanwhile, Effinex moved up on the turn inside Turco Bravo and then shifted out to loop three-wide past Wicked Strong, straightening away through a 1:36.89 mile and putting away Red Rifle in deep stretch.

“I had the best trip,” Arroyo said. “I was able to break good and relax behind the speed. I waited for the stretch and my horse responded when I asked. He’s a nice horse.”

Final time on a fast track was 2:02.16.

Wicked Strong, winner of the 2014 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (gr. I) and Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), was coming off a fourth in the March 7 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) going a mile, his first start since clipping heels and losing jockey Rajiv Maragh in the Sept. 27 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I).

“I was a little worried about running (Wicked Strong) 1 1/4 miles after having just one race in Florida, even though it was a good effort,” Jerkens said. “It puts a horse in a different mindset when you have to go chasing fast horses then you have to slow them back down again. You try to do what you can in the morning, but there’s only so much you can do. He’ll be back.”

Effinex returned $14, $5.60, and $3. Red Rifle paid $6.40 and $3.40, while Wicked Strong brought $2.10. Micromanage, Turco Bravo, and Stormin Monarcho completed the order of finish. North Slope and Cousin Stephen scratched.

Bred in New York by Dr. Russell S. Cohen out of the E Dubai mare What a Pear, Effinex improved his record to 5-1-2 from 13 starts.

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