Effinex Heads Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes


By Frank Angst, courtesy of Blood-Horse

While this year's $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (gr. I) lacks superstar power, the field of six older horses is an interesting mix of consistent veterans and less consistent types who have at times flashed talent.

The most accomplished in the group is Tri-Bone Stables' Effinex, who finished third in last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup, second to American Pharoah in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), and then secured his first grade I win in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.

The 5-year-old son of Mineshaft has added two grade II wins this year and will be making his first start since finishing fourth, 2 1/2 lengths behind Frosted, in the Whitney Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 6 at Saratoga Race Course.

The other grade I winner in the field, Hoppertunity, also earned that distinction in the Clark, winning the 2014 edition before finishing second to Effinex in that 1 1/8-mile race last year. Karl Watson, Paul Weitman, and Mike Pegram's Hoppertunity was entered in the Oct. 1 Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) but was scratched by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

The 5-year-old son of Any Given Saturday will be making his first start since finishing fourth to California Chrome in the Pacific Classic (gr. I).

Earlier in the year Hoppertunity finished third to California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (UAE-I), a race where Mubtaahij finished second. Mubtaahij also is entered in Saturday's 1 1/4-mile test.

A 4-year-old son of Dubawi, Mubtaahij was moved from trainer Michael de Kock to Kiaran McLaughlin's stable after that Dubai World Cup effort. He has since finished third to Effinex in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) and a close second to Shaman Ghost in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I). Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. has the return mount.

"He's a really neat horse, tries hard, does everything right, and he's a real pleasure to train," McLaughlin said. "We've enjoyed training him and we expect him to run a big race Saturday. He's really doing very well.

"It's his third start with Lasix and I think that he's just doing very well and hopefully he's catching up with the competition and can figure out a way to win. Irad knows him well now. This is his third time to ride him this summer and we just hope that the race unfolds well for us and we have the best horse."

McLaughlin also will send out Godolphin Racing's Watershed, a grade III-placed son of Bernardini.

"He's very well bred," McLaughlin said. "We think he wants to go the mile and a quarter."

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out Protonico off an allowance-optional claiming race win Sept. 9 at Belmont. The 5-year-old son of Giant's Causeway registered back to back graded stakes wins last year in Kentucky, setting a track record for 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland in winning the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) in 1:48.79.

Rounding out the field is grade II-placed War Story, who enters off a close second in a Sept. 24 stakes at Parx Racing.