For Effinex, Gold Cup is start of money run
ELMONT, N.Y. – A well-bred horse with five graded stakes wins and more than $3 million in the bank would figure to be headed to the breeding shed at the conclusion of his 5-year-old season. But if Russell Cohen stays true to his word, his familyowned Effinex will return to the races in 2017 as a 6-year-old.
“He’s sound as a dollar bill, the purses are huge, and he’s really talented,” Cohen said Wednesday at Belmont. “From an owner-breeder point of view, you certainly couldn’t pay to have any more run than we’re having. Why should I retire him?”
Effinex, a New York-bred son of Mineshaft, finished second to American Pharoah in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and then won the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs.
On Saturday, he will try to earn a fees-paid berth in this year’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be run at Santa Anita, when he runs against five rivals in the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.
The Gold Cup is the featured event on a Super Saturday card that includes six other stakes. First post is 12:15 p.m. Eastern.
Effinex drew post 6 and will be ridden by Mike Smith in the Gold Cup, which will go as race 10 on the 11-race card. From the rail, the Gold Cup drew Protonico, Mubtaahij, Hoppertunity, War Story, Watershed, and Effinex.
Cohen said the purses of the BC Classic, the newly created $12 million Pegasus World Cup, to be run Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park, and the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March are more than enough incentive to keep his horse in training another year despite offers to stand him at stud.
“Now, if he ever goes unsound or gets a hair out of place, I’ll consider it,” he said.
Cohen said he has been approached by someone with a slot in the Pegasus – for which 12 entities paid $1 million each – hoping to get a horse in the race. Cohen declined to say who approached him.
Effinex, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, has made 29 starts, winning nine and banking $3.04 million. In addition to winning the Clark and the Suburban twice, he has won the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap and Grade 3 Excelsior.
On Wednesday, Effinex blew out three furlongs in 36.62 seconds over the Belmont Park training track in preparation for the Gold Cup.
The complexion of the Gold Cup field changed a little bit this week. On Sunday, Jerkens announced that Woodward winner Shaman Ghost would skip the Gold Cup and train up to the Breeders’ Cup.
Samraat, who finished second, beaten a neck by Effinex, in the Suburban, was not entered in the Jockey Club. Trainer Rick Violette said Samraat isn’t doing “as well as he needs to in order to run in a race like this.”
Those two defections prompted trainer Todd Pletcher to redirect Protonico from the Grade 2 Kelso at a mile to the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup. Protonico, a four-time graded stakes winner, came off a layoff of more than nine months to win a classified allowance race by a nose over Ocean Knight on Sept. 11.
“The only thing we’re missing on his résumé is a Grade 1,” Pletcher said. “That would be huge for him if he were able to get that done. With a few of the major players not showing up – Shaman Ghost and Samraat – we felt this might be the right spot at the right time.”
Trainer Mark Hennig appears to have some nice young horses for Donald and Donna Adam’s Courtlandt Farm, but it is the 6-year-old mare Strike Charmer who might have given these connections their biggest thrill of the year when she won the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Sara- toga.
Strike Charmer rallied from last in the field of seven in the Ballston Spa to outfinish Lady Eli, handing that filly her first defeat. Those two will meet again Saturday at Belmont Park in the Grade 1, $500,000 Flower Bowl, a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.
Hennig understood that the story regarding the Ballston Spa was about Lady Eli, who was making her first start in 14 months after overcoming laminitis. He doesn’t feel Strike Charmer got overlooked, even after the win.
“If anything, maybe she got more attention because she beat Lady Eli,” Hennig said. “Certainly, the hullabaloo about Lady Eli was for good reason. She was unbeaten, coming off a traumatic experience that a lot of horses don’t even survive, let alone make it back to the races.”
In the Flower Bowl, Strike Charmer will be attempting 1 1/4 miles for the first time. She has three victories at 1 1/8 miles.
“She was closing well those days,” said Hennig, noting that the added distance “can always have an effect on them.”
“You don’t know till you try,” he said. “It certainly seems more logical than going [shorter].”
Junior Alvarado rode Strike Charmer in the Ballston Spa, but he is at Keeneland on Saturday. Javier Castellano has picked up the mount on Strike Charmer, who will break from post 2.
Lady Eli drew post 5, and a stablemate, Beverly D. winner Sea Calisi, drew post 6. Others entered include Ame Bleue, Itsonlyactingdad, and Sentiero Italia.
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito may not be the presence in the big races that he once was, but he hopes to be a factor in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne with Lookin At
Zito has won the Champagne five times, including in 2003 with Birdstone and in 2007 with War Pass.
Lookin At Blessing, a son of Lookin At Lucky, is coming off a 2 1/4-length maiden score going a mile here Sept. 11, his third start.
“I think the horse is certainly getting better,” Zito said. “He won at a mile, which has got to be good, and did it pretty impressively. I think that was a good field behind him. Certainly, a horse that looks like that has got a future. I got to try to see what it is. If you don’t take your shot, you can’t score.”
Lookin At Blessing drew post 4 and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. Ortiz was taken off Practical Joke, the Grade 1 Hopeful winner, who will be ridden by Joel Rosario from the rail in the Champagne.
Thirst for Victory and Syndergaard, both trained by Todd Pletcher, drew posts 2 and 3. Favorable Outcome is in post 5, followed by Big Gray Rocket in post 6.
Trainer Rick Violette said the Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette is a race he’s always wanted to win, and he’ll take a swing at it on Saturday with Sky Gesture, a debut winner at Saratoga on Aug. 28.
Sky Gesture was one of six 2-year-old fillies entered in the Frizette, which will go as race 4 on Saturday’s 11-race program at Belmont Park.
Sky Gesture beat Cursor by 1 3/4 lengths on Aug. 28 at Saratoga, and Cursor came back to win her maiden Wednesday at Belmont Park.
Violette said Sky Gesture’s speed in her debut surprised him.
“She’s a big, unassuming filly,” he said. “She doesn’t show off a whole lot in the morning, although her breeze out of the gate before she ran was pretty impressive.”
That day, Sky Gesture worked in company with Market Sentiment, who also came out of that work to win his debut.
Sky Gesture, a daughter of Tiznow, will attempt to stretch out from six furlongs to a mile in the Frizette. She will break from the rail under Mike Smith.
Outside of her, in post-position order, will be Libby’s Tail, Nonna Mela, Yellow Agate, Star Super, and Colorful Charades.
Though he rerouted Protonico to the Jockey Club Gold Cup, trainer Todd Pletcher still has the talented duo of Tommy Macho and Anchor Down for Saturday’s Grade 2, $350,000 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park.
Tommy Macho is making his first start since winning the Fred Hooper at Gulfstream in February. He underwent surgery to remove a chip from a knee and has come back a bit sooner than Pletcher anticipated.
“Everything has gone as well as we could have hoped,” Pletcher said. “He hasn’t missed a beat since he’s come back. We’re happy to have him back.”
Anchor Down, who won the Grade 3 Westchester here in May, missed a scheduled start in the Grade 1 Forego due to a quarter crack, Pletcher said.
Others entered in the Kelso include Ocean Knight, Point Piper, Tamarkuz, and Upstart. In other stakes Saturday:
Inspector Lynley, the winner of the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga in his most recent start, drew post 5 in a field of 10 for the Grade 3, $500,000 Hill Prince for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. He will take on a field that includes three from trainer Chad Brown – Annals of Time, Camelot Kitten, and Beach Patrol – as well as Conquest Daddyo, American Patriot, Dressed in Hermes, Monster Bea, Berliner, and Strike Midnight.
Owners-breeders Frank and Patricia Generazio have a potent one-two punch of Pure Sensation and Disco Partner entered in a field of 10 for the inaugural $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational. Pure Sensation, trained by Christophe Clement, won the Jaipur and Parx Dash in his two most recent starts and is returning from a foot injury. Disco Partner, trained by James Ryerson, is coming off a neck win in the Troy Stakes.
Santa Anita: City of Hope Mile
ARCADIA, Calif. – The multiple graded stakes winners Obviously and Om will dominate the betting in Saturday’s $200,000 City of Hope Mile on turf at Santa Anita.
Obviously won the Grade 3 Poker Stakes at Belmont Park on June 18 in his latest start. Om, a three-time stakes winner in 2015, returned from a sixmonth layoff to finish second in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile on turf Aug. 21.
They are part of a field that is expected to include Ed Johnson, Frank Conversation, Patriots Rule, Perfectly Majestic, and Vyjack.
Saturday’s richest race is the $300,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship at six furlongs, which is expected to have a small field. Lord Nelson, the winner of the Grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes here in June and the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar in July, will be a heavy favorite.
Keeneland: Breeders’ Cup preps
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Tepin has been assigned post 2 as the heavy favorite for the Grade 1 First Lady, one of five graded stakes set for a blockbuster Saturday card at Keeneland.
With Julien Leparoux riding for trainer Mark Casse, Tepin will be making her final start before trying for a repeat victory in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old Tepin is unbeaten in six starts in three countries this year.
The First Lady leads into two other Grade 1 races, the Breeders’ Futurity and Shadwell Turf Mile, the latter of which drew a stellar lineup as the richest race of the 17-day fall meet. Here’s a quick rundown:
Grade 1, $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile (race 9): Mondialiste and Kasaqui, the onetwo finishers in the Arlington Million, are part of an outstanding field of 11 that also includes Grand Arch, Ironicus, Ring Weekend, and Tourist. Miss Temple City, who defeated males in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile in the spring, will dodge Tepin by running here.
Grade 1, $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (race 8): Graded stakes winners Bitumen, Gunnevera, and Classic Empire are among the 12 2-year-olds entered in this 1 1/16-mile race.
Grade 1, $400,000 First Lady (race 7): Perhaps the chief opposition for Tepin in this one-mile turf race will come from Celestine, the winner of the Just a Game in June. Ten fillies and mares are entered.
Grade 2, $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America (race 6): Stonetastic will break from post 2 in a six-furlong race that also has Bendable, Sarah Sis, and Spelling Again in a field of eight fillies and mares.
Grade 3, $150,000 Woodford (race 5): An oversubscribed field of turf sprinters includes Mongolian Saturday, the winner of the BC Turf Sprint here last year.
Charles Town: West Va. Classic
Longtime West Virginia horseman James W. Casey certainly is staying busy at age 86. He has trained 45 winners this year and is only four away from 1,000. He also operates Taylor Mountain Farm in Charles Town, which stands four stallions.
On Saturday night, Casey will attempt to win the $450,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic with Charitable Annuity for the second straight year. His recently retired 10 -yearold Russell Road is scheduled to lead the post parade for the Classic, a race he won three times for owner Mark Russell, who also races Charitable Annuity.
In last year’s Breeders’ Classic, Charitable Annuity rallied from off the pace to win by 2 3/4 lengths, while Russell Road tired to finish ninth after bleeding during the race.
Casey said Charitable Annuity is ready to defend his title.
“He’s doing wonderful,” Casey said. “It’s not going to be a walkover, though. It’s going to be a nice race. He really likes the 1 1/8 miles.”
West Virginia Classics night at Charles Town will consist of nine stakes for statebreds. Total purses for the nine races will be $1.17 million. First post is 7 p.m. Eastern.