Effinex favored in soft renewal of the Big 'Cap

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

March 9th, 2016

With most of the nation's leading older males either preparing for the Dubai World Cup (G1) later this month or presently sidelined, Saturday's renewal of the $1 million Santa Anita H. (G1) has come up rather soft. That might turn out to be good news for morning line favorite Effinex, who totes top weight of 123 pounds in the historic 1 1/4-mile fixture.

The "Big 'Cap" figures to be an important race for Effinex, who will get to test the Santa Anita strip for the first time. Not all East Coast-based horses have adapted to the quicker California track in the past, and Effinex's performance Saturday might go a long ways toward determining whether he can be a significant factor in November when Santa Anita hosts the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).

Effinex knows all about the Classic, having run a clear second to Triple Crown hero American Pharoah in last October's renewal at Keeneland. It was that performance, plus victories in the Clark H. (G1), Suburban H. (G2), and Excelsior (G3), that helped garner some Eclipse Award votes for the Jimmy Jerkens-trained son of Mineshaft. Though he didn't win older dirt male honors, Effinex has an opportunity to rack up some key wins early this year while several of his main rivals recover from their trip to the Middle East.

Imperative, who's done well in recent editions of the Charles Town Classic (G2) but has settled for minor awards in major events on this circuit, ran one of the best races of his career when missing by a nostril to Hoppertunity in the February 6 San Antonio (G2). Likely to garner more support out of the race is Donworth, who was only a half-length behind in third and is lightly-raced with only five previous trips to post. The Tiznow colt is also the most likely to go to the front in a race with not much other speed.

The dearth of front-runners is likely to hurt deep-closing Hard Aces, a course-and-distance winner of last year's Gold Cup (G1). Others who might attend the pace are General a Rod, coming off a huge allowance win in the slop at Gulfstream for Todd Pletcher, and the stakes-winning Point Piper. The field is rounded out by Melatonin, Cyrus Alexander, and Class Leader.

The Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) on the turf has attracted a solid field of seven. Bolo, who comes off a neck victory in the February 13 Arcadia (G2) following a seven-month layoff, could be a slight favorite over multiple Grade 2 winner Om, Seabiscuit H. (G2) hero Midnight Storm, and capable Brazilian import Bal a Bali.

A field of nine older horses will dash seven furlongs in the $300,000 San Carlos (G2). Wild Dude, who captured last year's San Carlos by three parts of a length over returning rival Kobe's Back, later captured the Bing Crosby (G1) and Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) before finishing a dull sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) in his most recent start.

The slow-starting, fast-finishing Kobe's Back added blinkers for last month's Palos Verdes (G2) and promptly snapped a five-race losing streak in the six-furlong test. He, along with Midnight Lute (G3) victor San Onofre, who inexplicably bombed in the $150,000 California Cup Sprint last time, are the main threats to Wild Dude.

The blockbuster 11-race card concludes with the $75,000 China Doll, a one-mile grass race for three-year-old fillies. Potential favorites in a wide-open cast of 12 are California Oaks heroine Kiss N Scat and California Cup Oaks winner Pacific Heat.

(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

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