Effinex faces Pletcher foursome in Woodward
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – After winning a Grade 3 and a Grade 2 stakes already this year, Effinex gets his first opportunity to win a Grade 1 when he runs in Saturday’s $600,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.
Effinex, a New York-bred son of Mineshaft, was one of eight horses entered for the Woodward, which goes as race 10 on a 12-race card at the Spa. First post Saturday and for the entire Labor Day weekend is 12:30 p.m. Eastern.
Effinex will take on a quartet of horses trained by Todd Pletcher: Whitney runner-up Liam’s Map, Brooklyn Handicap winner Coach Inge, Alysheba Stakes winner Protonico, and Mylute. The others entered are Wicked Strong, who is a stablemate of Effinex, Bay of Plenty, and Commanding Curve.
Effnex is 3 for 4 this year, with victories in an allowance race over Aqueduct’s inner track, the Grade 3 Excelsior over Aqueduct’s main track, and the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap last out at Belmont.
Effinex has a history of hitting himself, and he had cuts and scars on his left hind pastern that contributed to his being held out of the Grade 1 Whitney earlier at this meet. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens gave Effinex a stamina-building sevenfurlong workout in 1:27.64 on Aug. 23, then came back with a sharper five-furlong work in 59.77 seconds over Saratoga’s main track last Sunday.
Shortening up from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/8 miles, Effinex will “have to be sharper just to stay in shouting range with all the speed in there,” Jerkens said.
“He might drop back the first part, but when he gets moving, he can get into the thick of things quick,” Jerkens added. “He doesn’t look like he’s doing anything, but he’s gaining ground.”
Effinex will break from post 7 under Junior Alvarado, while Wicked Strong will break from the rail under Luis Saez.
Wicked Strong, seeking his first win since the 2014 Jim Dandy Stakes here, comes off a fourth-place finish behind Honor Code in the Whitney here Aug. 8. On Wednesday, he blew out a swift three furlongs in 36.38 seconds over the Oklahoma training track.
Liam’s Map carved out fast fractions and had a 4 1/2-length lead in the stretch of the Whitney before being run down by Honor Code to lose by a neck. Mike Smith rode Liam’s Map that day. Javier Castellano, aboard Liam’s Map for an allowance win at Belmont in June, will be aboard Saturday from post 2.
Outside of Wicked Strong and Liam’s Map, in post-position order, are Commanding Curve, Bay of Plenty, Mylute, Coach Inge, Effinex and Protonico.
Liam’s Map might have to deal with some early pace pressure from Bay of Plenty, who will break from post 4. Bay of Plenty comes out of a frontrunning score in the Alydar Stakes here Aug. 9.
The Woodward card also includes the Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway for 2-year-old fillies; the Grade 3, $300,000 Saranac for 3-year-old males on turf; and the Grade 3, $200,000 Glens Falls, a marathon for fillies and mares on turf.
The Woodward and Spinaway will be shown live on NBC in a one-hour broadcast from 5-6 p.m.
Liam’s Map, training at Saratoga on Aug. 22, most recently was second in the Grade 1 Whitney.