Effinex to face six in Stephen Foster
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Effinex has been assigned post 3 as the favorite in a field of seven older horses for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap, which will help kick off the unofficial second half of the North American racing season with its 35th running Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
Effinex, with Gary Stevens to ride, will carry 122 pounds as the highweight in the 1 1/8-mile Foster, which not only offers a $500,000 purse but also a Win and You’re In berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 5.
Effinex has had five timed workouts over the Belmont Park training track since winning his last start, the Oaklawn Handicap, on April 16.
“He’s gotten a lot of very good work done here, so he arrived there [Sunday] in good shape,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said Tuesday from New York.
Majestic Harbor and Eagle, the onetwo finishers in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill, are among the top challengers to Effinex.
From the rail and with weights and riders, this is the Foster lineup: International Star, 116, Florent Geroux; Bradester, 116, Joe Bravo; Effinex, 122, Stevens; Majestic Harbor, 118, Corey Lanerie; El Kabeir, 115, Ricardo Santana Jr.; Are You Kidding Me, 118, Julien Leparoux; and Eagle, 117, Brian Hernandez Jr.
The Foster is carded as the eighth of 11 races, and the fourth of five consecutive graded stakes, on a Downs After Dark card that starts at 6 p.m. Eastern. It will be shown live on TVG2, with post time set for 9:39, and is part of numerous multirace wagers, including the 20-cent Single Six (races 6-11). In the other Saturday night stakes:
Grade 3, $100,000 Matt Winn (race 5, post 7:57): Gun Runner, prepping for the Haskell Invitational on July 31, figures as a huge favorite over six other 3-year-olds in this 1 1/16-mile race.
Grade 2, $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (race 6, post 8:30): The 2014 Kentucky Oaks winner, Untapable, will try to get past the $4 million earnings mark when breaking from the rail against five other fillies and mares in this 1 1/8-mile race.
Grade 2, $200,000 Wise Dan (race 7, post 9:05): Formerly known as the Firecracker, this 1 1/16-mile turf race drew a field of 11 older horses led by 2015 Arlington Million winner The Pizza Man.
Grade 3, $100,000 Regret (race 9, post 10:11): A well-matched field of 11 3-yearold fillies will travel 1 1/8 miles on turf in rounding out the stakes lineup.
Santa Anita: Summertime Oaks
ARCADIA, Calif. – Trainer Phil D’amato is bringing numbers to compete against the undefeated champion Songbird in Saturday’s $200,000 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita.
As of Wednesday morning, D’amato was contemplating starting three fillies in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks at 1 1/16 miles – Bellamentary, the winner of the Angels Flight Stakes on May 15; Coppa, unbeaten in two starts; and possibly Sutton’s Smile, who was third in the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos last December.
Sutton’s Smile could be held out of the Summertime Oaks in favor of Sunday’s $200,000 Honeymoon Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Bellamentary was fifth behind Songbird in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on April 9. Coppa has won her two starts in sprints. The Summertime Oaks will be her stakes debut.
Songbird has not raced since winning the Santa Anita Oaks. She got sick after that race and was unable to start in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 6. Songbird has been in steady training for the last six weeks.
Still, Songbird has not raced in more than two months, and D’amato thinks the Summertime Oaks may be the time to challenge her.
“After a horse comes back from a sickness, you never know if they’re 100 percent or not,” he said. “I think we’d need a 90 percent Songbird to have a chance to beat her.”
At the same time, D’amato acknowledges that Songbird may be an exception to any theory. Songbird has not been challenged in her seven races, winning by a combined 36 lengths. She won the Santa Anita Oaks by 3 3/4 lengths without urging in the final furlong by jockey Mike Smith.
“Sometimes a horse will fool you, especially a filly as amazing as she is,” D’amato said. “I’m hoping she’s not fully cranked.”