Effinex, Upstart highlight a nice Oaklawn Handicap field

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 13th, 2016

An excellent field of eight older horses will square off in Saturday’s $750,000 Oaklawn H. (G2) on the Arkansas Derby undercard.

Effinex came on strong at the end of 2015, finishing a clear second to American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) before registering his first Grade 1 victory in the Clark H. (G1), and the 5-year-old is eligible to improve upon a third in the Santa Anita H. (G1) in his seasonal bow. Listed as the 2-1 morning line favorite, the Jimmy Jerkens trainee will break from the far outside post with a returning Mike Smith.

Upstart opened 2015 in strong fashion, easily finishing first in a pair of Grade 2 stakes at Gulfstream Park (controversially disqualified to second in the Fountain of Youth), but went off form after a last-place effort in the Kentucky Derby (G1), dropping his next three starts last season. He came back this year with a commendable performance in the March 19 Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn, rallying to win going away by a length, and the Richard Volette-trained ridgling may continue to show more with Joe Bravo.

Santa Anita H. upsetter Melatonin invades for trainer David Hofmans with a two-race win streak and will show speed from his inside post with Joe Talamo. Blofeld merits serious respect for Todd Pletcher off a victory in the Gulfstream Park H. (G2) and keeps John Velazquez in the saddle.

Three other stakes winners are part of the eight-horse cast – Carve, Financial Modeling and Point Piper – Razorback runner-up Domain’s Rap completes the line-up.

The $150,000 Northern Spur is also part of the undercard and features 10 3-year-olds at a one-mile trip, including unplaced Rebel (G2) participants Madtap and Z Royal. Gulfstream Park turf stakes winner Cash Back heads a field of seven sophomore fillies in the $150,000 Instant Racing at six furlongs.

Photo of Effinex winning the Clark courtesy of Reed Palmer Photography