November 27, 2015
Source: Blood-Horse (Written by Claire Novak)

Tri-Bone Stables’ Effinex capped his big season in a big way Nov. 27, holding off defending winner Hoppertunity by three-quarters of a length in the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Heathcare (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.

Favored at odds of 5-2 in the nine-horse field on the merits of his runner-up finish last out to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Oct. 31 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), the 4-year-old New York-bred son of MINESHAFT collected the first grade I victory of his career for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. He also won the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) and Excelsior Stakes (gr. III) this year, placed third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), and was fourth in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I). Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has been in the irons for his past two outings.

“He ran a hard race in the Breeders’ Cup, but he shipped all the way back (to New York) on the van and acted like a fresh horse so we decided to come back,” Jerkens said. “We didn’t really make a final decision until the week before. We were sure we could get Mike to do it and we were sure that he wanted to come. We didn’t know what he had elsewhere but he definitely wanted to come so that helped us a little bit.”

Effinex closed with a four-wide bid after breaking from post 8 and tracking fifth early under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith as Mr. Z and Shotgun Kowboy showed the way through early fractions of :23.43 and :47.68. After three-quarters in 1:11.64, the eventual winner took over from his co-122-pound highweight Race Day  —who briefly assumed the advantage turning for home after prompting the pace—and turned back the game inside run of longshot Looks to Spare, who held third over late-closing grade I winner Keen Ice.

After a 1:36.10 mile, final time for the 1 1/8-mile test was 1:48.92 on a fast track. The winning time was the seventh-fastest in in 61 runnings of the Clark at the current 1 1/8-mile distance, and was the fastest since the victorious A.P. Arrow covered nine furlongs in a winning time of 1:48.66 in the 2007 Clark.

“He’s done some quirky things,” Smith said of Effinex. “He’s bolted before, he’ll switch leads in the middle of the turn with you to the right, which is very odd for a horse to do that. He’ll kind of throw himself off and I just took a long hold and keep my hands down and just let him get comfortable with himself. Every move he does, I just go with and it seems to work out well. Instead of grabbing him and trying to make him stay in his left down the turn and stay in his right down the lane, I just go with him and it works. So far, so good.”

The winner returned $7, $3.60, and $3.20 while Hoppertunity paid $3.20 and $2.60. Looks to Spare rewarded backers with $10.80 at odds of 88-1, while Keen Ice, Race Day, Protonico, Shotgun Kowboy, and Mr. Z completed the order of finish. Frivolous scratched.

Jockey Martin Garcia, aboard Hoppertunity, said Effinex was too much horse for his Bob Baffert-trained mount to handle.

“The other two horses (Mr. Z and Shotgun Kowboy) showed the speed and I tried to follow them,” Garcia said of his trip aboard Hoppertunity, who closed from seventh. “The speed was fine here all day long and I didn’t want to be too far back. My horse ran a big race but I just couldn’t pass the other one (Effinex). The other one is a really, really nice horse. When I got next to him, he just took off.”

Effinex was bred in New York by Russell S. Cohen out of the E Dubai mare What a Pear; Cohen is the racing manager for Tri-Bone, his mother Bernice Cohen’s operation. The bay runner is the first New York-bred in the modern era to win the Clark; Churchill records have one other horse from the Empire State listed as a Clark winner—Anticlimax in 1943.

It was the first victory in the race for the owners and trainer, and the second for Smith, who piloted Mi Cielo to win the Clark Handicap in 1991.

Effinex now has a 7-2-3 record from 20 starts for earnings of $2,112,950, and will get some time off at the end of the season.

“Maybe we’ll send him to Florida, I don’t know yet,” said Jerkens, who last year kept Effinex with him in New York despite a harsh winter. “He’s such a tough horse, as long as there’s someone around taking good care of him that’s all he cares about.”

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