Trainer Jimmy Jerkens' talented Effinex, along with sharp local contenders Imperative and Donworth, head a field of nine older horses set to go a mile and a quarter in Saturday's 79th running of the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.
America's longest continually run “hundred grander,” the Big 'Cap was first run in 1935, and it was won by Azucar, with legendary George “The Iceman” Woolf aboard. Last year's renewal was won by Jerry Hollendorfer's Shared Belief.
EFFINEX: Owned by Tri-Bone Stables, this 5-year-old horse by Mineshaft was second to Triple Crown Champion American Pharoah two starts back in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic Oct. 31, and has been idle since winning the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs Nov. 27. A winner of Belmont Park's Grade II, 1 ¼ miles Suburban Handicap from well off the pace last July, Effinex has two wins, a second and a third in five tries at a mile and a quarter. Based at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida, Effinex had what was termed a “maintenance” half mile work here on Tuesday in 47.80. With seven wins from 20 overall starts, he'll be making his first-ever start at Santa Anita. A winner of the past three runnings, Mike Smith will seek an unprecedented fourth consecutive win in the Big 'Cap on Saturday.
IMPERATIVE: In one of his best-ever races, KM Racing Enterprise, Incorporated's stable star was second, beaten a nose, in the Grade II, 1 1/8 miles San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 6 and rates a big chance in his sixth start for trainer Richard Baltas. Second to Hoppertunity in the San Antonio, Imperative, a 6-year-old gelding by Bernardini, was a sharp second two starts back to California Chrome in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 9. Ridden by Mike Smith in the San Antonio, he'll get the services of Santiago Gonzalez in the Big 'Cap. Claimed for $50,000 twenty starts back in December, 2013, the venerable gelding will hope to be rolling from off the pace as he seeks his fourth win from 30 lifetime starts.
DONWORTH: In his first start for the I'll Have Another (2012 Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner) triumvirate of J. Paul Reddam, Doug O'Neill and Mario Gutierrez, Donworth pressed the pace in the Grade II San Antonio and finished a solid third, beaten a half length by both Hoppertunity and Imperative. According to O'Neill, Donworth was in need of the race, as he'd been idle since taking a minor stakes at Delaware Park this past June. Lightly raced, this 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by Tiznow is 5-2-1-2 and appears primed for a big effort in his first graded stakes assignment.
THE GRADE I SANTA ANITA HANDICAP FIELD IN POST POSITION ORDER WITH MORNING LINE ODDS:
1. Point Piper Drayden Van Dyke 115 12-1
2. Melatonin Joe Talamo
3. Donworth Mario Gutierrez 117
4. General a Rod Rafael Bejarano 116 4-1
6. Cyrus Alexander Martin Garcia 115 20-1
7. Hard Aces Abel Lezcano 118 12-1
8. Imperative Santiago Gonzalez 120 3-1
9. Class Leader Kent Desormeaux 114 30-1
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