Effinex faces Pletcher four­some in Wood­ward

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

BAR­BARA D. LIV­INGSTON

Liam’s Map, train­ing at Saratoga on Aug. 22, most re­cently was sec­ond in the Grade 1 Whit­ney.

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