Thursday, June 16, 2016

Oaklawn Handicap Winner Effinex Returns in Saturday’s Stephen Foster

Oaklawn Handicap winner Effinex is the even-money program favorite for the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) Saturday at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/8-mile race is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, guaranteeing the winner a starting berth in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 5 at Santa Anita.

Effinex is trying to become the fifth consecutive Oaklawn-raced horse to win the Stephen Foster. Ron the Greek finished second as the 5-2 favorite in the 2012 Oaklawn Handicap before winning the Stephen Foster in his next start. Fort Larned finished fifth as the 1-2 favorite in the 2013 Oaklawn Handicap before winning the Stephen Foster in his next start. Moonshine Mullin was a three-time winner at the 2014 Oaklawn meeting, then stretched his winning streak to five in the 2014 Stephen Foster – his final career start. And, Noble Bird won the 2015 Stephen Foster in his third start after an allowance/optional claiming victory at Oaklawn.

“He’s coming in real good,” Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said of Effinex. “Usually when he comes out of a big race like the one at Oaklawn he loses a few pounds, but it looks like he came out of that race better than he usually does. He can be a weird horse to gauge. He’s an old-time horse who just does his thing. There were times that I didn’t think he was at his best and he ran really well. I never take anything lightly, especially these days when horses can be so in and out. I always go at it like it’s the Breeders’ Cup. I don’t take his training lightly because of that. To go at it like that, you would just be kidding yourself with a horse of this quality.”

Effinex, who will be the 122-pound starting high weight, is coming off a one-length victory as the 8-5 favorite in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 16. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, he has an 8-2-4 record from 22 lifetime starts and earnings of $2,682,950.

Effinex is already a Grade 1 winner at Churchill Downs (last fall’s $500,000 Clark Handicap) and finished second to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Oct. 31 at Keeneland.

He is scheduled to break from post 3 Saturday under Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who is subbing for Hall of Famer Mike Smith because Smith is staying in California to ride champion Songbird.

Also entered are International Star, Bradester, Majestic Harbor, El Kabeir, Are You Kidding Me and Eagle.

Probable post time for the Stephen Foster is 8:39 p.m. (Central).

Breaking the Streak?

Champion Untapable will try to snap a losing streak at a place where she’s never lost – Churchill Downs – in Saturday’s $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) at 1 1/8 miles. In her only two starts this year, Untapable finished second in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 19 at Oaklawn and fourth in the Apple Blossom April 15, a race she won in 2015.

“That was why we wanted to run her back here in Saturday’s race,” seven-time Oaklawn leading trainer Steve Asmussen said. “It has been too long since we’ve won with her and I think we just need to take our best shot at winning and I think the significance of it being a ‘Win And You’re In’ race for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff adds to it.”

The 5-year-old Tapit mare has been installed the 7-5 program favorite for the Fleur de Lis. She is 3 for 3 at Churchill Downs, highlighted by the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) en route to an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2014.

Asmussen has named Florent Geroux to again ride Untapable, who is scheduled to break from the rail under top weight of 120 pounds.

Also entered are Engaginglee, Paid Up Subscriber, Ahh Chocolate, Big Book and Brooklynsway.

Probable post time for the Fleur de Lis is 7:30 p.m. (Central).

By the Numbers

Several Oaklawn regulars are approaching career milestones, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

Trainer Mac Robertson has 997 victories. He is currently based at Canterbury Park.

Trainer Brad Cox, who finished fourth in Oaklawn’s trainer standings this year, has 490 victories. He is primarily based in Kentucky.

Channing Hill, who finished fourth in Oaklawn’s jockey standings this year, has 996 victories. Hill set personal meet bests this year in Hot Springs for mounts (180), victories (33) and purse earnings ($1,708,887). He is riding at Churchill Downs.

Jon Court, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000, has 3,975 victories. Court has 615 career victories at Oaklawn, including 29 this year to finish sixth. He is riding at Churchill Downs.

Finish Lines

Arkansas Derby graduates Cutacorner (seventh), Gray Sky (eighth) and Unbridled Outlaw (11th) are entered in the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Saturday at Churchill Downs. Also entered in the 1 1/16-mile race is Texas Chrome, third in the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes April 15 at Oaklawn. … Oaklawn-raced Fuhriously Kissed is entered in the grassy $100,000 Regret Stakes (G3) Saturday at Churchill Downs. … Speightsong, a Feb. 6 allowance/optional claiming winner at Oaklawn, is entered in Saturday’s $150,000 Achievement Stakes at Woodbine and Monday’s $100,000 Karl Boyes Memorial Stakes at Presque Isle. Speightsong ran ninth in the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 10 at Oaklawn. … Alex Canchari (23 victories) continues to top the jockey standings at Canterbury Park. Canchari was Oaklawn’s third-leading jockey this year with 36 victories. … Alex Birzer (40 victories) is the leading rider at Prairie Meadows. Birzer was Oaklawn’s fifth-leading rider this year with 30 victories.

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