Effinex wins Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Effinex, the runner-up to Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh last month in the Breeders' Cup Classic, won the 141st running of the Grade 1 Clark Handicap by three-quarters of a length Friday at Churchill Downs.
The 4-year-old son of Mineshaft made a four-wide bid entering the final turn, took the lead at the top of the stretch and held off a late charge from Hoppertunity for his first Grade 1 win. He ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.92.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Effinex paid $7, $3.60 and $3.20 as the 5-2 favorite in the field of eight. Hoppertunity, last year's Clark winner, returned $3.20 and $2.60. Looks to Spare, an 88-1 long shot, held off Keen Ice for third and paid $10.80.
Owned by Tri-Bone Stables and trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the New York-bred Effinex has blossomed in Kentucky with Smith aboard in his last two starts.
''I thought, `Well if I could just get him to perform like he did Breeders' Cup day - or maybe not even quite as good - he could win this,''' Smith said after winning his second Clark. ''He had to do that and a little bit more. They made him run today.''
Effinex's effort while chasing American Pharoah throughout at Keeneland, finishing 6 1/2 lengths back at odds of 33-1, and his appearance following the race enticed Jerkens to ship back to Kentucky for another race to close out 2015.
''We were so thrilled with being second in the Breeders' Cup we kind of thought that might be it for the end of the year,'' Jerkens said. ''The more I saw how he was doing since he ran - it was a Grade 1 and the last opportunity to wind it down in a good way - we took the trip.''
Effinex earned his fourth win in eight starts this year to cap an impressive 4-year-old campaign that included wins in the Grade 2 Suburban and Grade 3 Excelsior in New York. He now has a 7-2-3 record in 20 lifetime starts. The $300,700 winner's share of the $500,000 purse boosts his career earnings to $2,112,950.
In earlier stakes action, Almasty led from the start to win the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf Cup for 3-year-olds by 4 1/4 lengths.