ELMONT, N.Y. – Under a perfectly measured ride from Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Tri-Bone Stables’ Effinex outfinished a gutsy Samraat to lead a New York-bred exacta and capture his second consecutive Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban Handicap on Saturday’s Stars & Stripes Day festival card at Belmont Park.
Breaking alertly from post 5 as the 5-2 second-choice, Effinex sat comfortably in second position as Samraat led the field of seven through tepid fractions of 25.31 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, with the half going in 49.34.
At the quarter-pole, Smith set down Effinex to made his move toward the leader. Engaging in a battle that commenced at the top of the stretch, the two dueled to the wire with Effinex getting a neck in front in the final jumps.
Effinex, who returned $6.30 for a $2 win wager, completed the 1 ¼-mile distance in a winning time of 2:01.04.
“He ran wonderful,” said Smith. “I got to the outside and got in comfortable and in a rhythm. He’s funny sometimes. You have to work with him, but I’ve been so lucky to ride him at the right time. The post was right, everything always seems to be right. I just got blessed again.”
Picking up his third career victory in six starts at 1 ¼ miles, the 5-year-old son of Mineshaft earned his second-graded stakes win this year, boosting his career earnings to $2,987,950.
“All things came together,” said winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens. “I guess he’s a natural at a mile and a quarter. He’s a grinder. It looks like he can outgrind anybody out there, it seems. We’ll take it.
“I always loved this race,” said Jerkens. “When I was a little kid, my father [late Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens] won this race a bunch of times with Beau Purple. He used to love to run in it any chance he could. He was a New York guy and those New York handicap races always meant a lot to him. And to me too. It’s great to win here.”
Looking forward, Jerkens was non-committal on Effinex’s next start but is keeping his options at Saratoga open.
“You can’t rule anything out,” added Jerkens. “The Whitney [Grade 1, $1.25 million, August 6, Saratoga] is a little close. It all depends on how he’s doing, and who’s running. Sometimes it’s better they just keep running.”
Following post-time favorite Mubtaahij in third were Eagle, Shaman Ghost, Turco Bravo, and Tapin Mojo. Noble Bird was scratched.