Effinex looks to rebound from an off-the-board finish in his previous start and defend his title July 9 in the $500,000 Suburban Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park, while Eagle aims to break through after two consecutive runner-up efforts in graded stakes.
"I don't know what happened last time," said trainer Jimmy Jerkens of the sixth-place Stephen Foster finish. "He ran kind of wide, maybe he didn't like that but we'll give it another go. In some of his previous races where he's not run his best, I feel he might have been over-trained so we're careful not to do that this time."
Jerkens said the day before the Stephen Foster that Effinex went faster than intended around the Churchill oval.
"So we'll take it a little easier this time to see if he has more left in the tank," Jerkens said. "The fact that he's run very well at the distance in the past is encouraging. If anybody should be able to handle it, it should be him."
Effinex also has a good record at Belmont, with two wins and three thirds in eight starts. His victories include last year's Suburban, which he won by a head over Tonalist.
Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith has the mount. He'll break from post 5 carrying high weight of 122 pounds. Smith piloted Effinex to victories in the 2015 Clark Handicap (gr. I) and in this year's Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II).
Jerkens also will send out Stronach Stables homebred Shaman Ghost, who enters off an easy win in the Brooklyn Invitational Stakes (gr. II) June 11 at Belmont.
Meanwhile, William S. Farish's homebred Eagle is looking for his second graded stakes win of the year out of five graded stakes starts. The 4-year-old son of Candy Ride —Sea Gull, by Mineshaft, has only been off the board once in his past nine starts. He followed his win in the grade III Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland in April with two second-place finishes in the Oaklawn Handicap and the Stephen Foster.
Neil Howard trains Eagle, who will be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. and break from post 4 carrying 119 pounds.
Running for owner John Oxley is multiple graded stakes winner Noble Bird, who comes into the race off a sixth-place running in his Belmont debut June 11 in the grade I Metropolitan Mile Handicap in June. Prior to that race, the 5-year-old son of Birdstone —Anyhow, by Tiznow , won the Pimlico Special Handicap (gr. III) by 11 1/4 lengths. Noble Bird is trained by Mark Casse and will break from post 1 under jockey Julien Leparoux.
"He's been really solid since coming out of the Met Mile," said Norm Casse, assistant to his father. "Every time we run him we learn a little more about him but we like that he got some experience over the track last time out and we think the returning back and going a mile and a quarter should benefit him."
The field also will mark the first start Mubtaahij since he finished second to California Chrome in this year's Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (UAE-I). The 4-year-old Dubawi colt has a start over the surface, finishing fourth in last year's Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Belmont Park, Saturday, July 09, 2016, Race 9
- 1 1/4m
- 4 yo's & up
- 5:13 PM (local)
|1||1Noble Bird (KY)||Julien R. Leparoux||117||Mark E. Casse||4/1|
|2||2Mubtaahij (IRE)||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||118||Kiaran P. McLaughlin||7/2|
|3||3Shaman Ghost (ON)||Joel Rosario||120||James A. Jerkens||5/1|
|4||4Eagle (KY)||Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.||119||Neil J. Howard||5/1|
|5||5Effinex (NY)||Mike E. Smith||122||James A. Jerkens||5/2|
|6||6Turco Bravo (CHI)||Javier Castellano||116||Gary C. Contessa||20/1|
|7||7Samraat (NY)||Jose L. Ortiz||115||Richard A. Violette, Jr.||12/1|
|8||8Tapin Mojo (KY)||Angel S. Arroyo||109||Naipaul Chatterpaul||50/1|