Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs

Effinex Headlines Oaklawn Handicap Field

The 5-year-old returns to take another run at Melatonin, who he finished third to in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I).

Effinex was assigned top weight of 121 pounds for the April 16 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) and morning-line favoritism at 2-1 odds after post positions were drawn for the field of eight.

He arrived at Oaklawn Park at the beginning of this week accompanied by Kent Sweezey, the assistant to trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

Sweezey spoke of the 5-year-old son of Mineshaft 's popularity with his jockey, as well.

"Mike Smith loves this horse," Sweezey said. "Mike's first race on him was the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), and he ran second (behind 2015 Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year American Pharoah ). Next time out they won and then ran third. When Mike got off him the first time, he said he wanted to ride this horse for the rest of his career."

Effinex won the Clark Handicap (gr. I) last November at Churchill Downs, and is coming into Saturday's race off a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 12, a race won by Melatonin, who has also made the trip to Arkansas for the Oaklawn Handicap.

BALAN: Melatonin 16-1 Stunner in Big 'Cap

Effinex has also been healthy and feeling good since arriving at Oaklawn, and his recent and mysterious case of hives that plagued him since his trip to Santa Anita has now cleared up.

Melatonin will carry 119 pounds, the second highest weight assigned. Trainer David Hoffmans gave the return call to Joe Talamo, who has ridden at Oaklawn only twice before. Melatonin is the morning-line 7-2 co-second choice, along with Upstart .

Upstart is coming off of a victory in the Razorback Handicap (gr. III) March 19, the final major local prep for the Oaklawn Handicap.

"He's at the top of his game right now. We know he really likes this track and he's been very happy since we got back here," said Melissa Cohen, assistant to Upstart's trainer Rick Violette Jr. "This race came up pretty salty, but he's got that race under his belt. That day he was as game as could be, even though he caught the widest trip of all. He's got that huge stride, so it's pretty deceiving how fast he's going."

Blofeld , from the barn of Todd Pletcher, won the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) in his last start in early March. He has also won the Nashua Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Futurity Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park, both in 2014

His win at Gulfstream this year marked his return to graded-stakes company, after he finished fifth in the Dwyer Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont last July and had his 2016 debut with a fourth-place finish in an allowance optional claiming event at Gulfstream.

Graded stakes winner Carve, graded-stakes placed Domain's Rap, stakes-placed Financial Modeling, and graded-stakes placed Point Piper round out the field.

Entries: Oaklawn H. (G2)

Oaklawn Park, Saturday, April 16, 2016, Race 9

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $750,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 5:09 PM (local)
11Blofeld (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJohn R. Velazquez116Todd A. Pletcher4/1
22Melatonin (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoseph Talamo119David E. Hofmans7/2
33Point Piper (KY)Martin Garcia113Jerry Hollendorfer15/1
44Financial Modeling (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateIrad Ortiz, Jr.113Brad H. Cox8/1
55Carve (KY)Rafael Bejarano115Steven M. Asmussen15/1
66Upstart (NY)Joe Bravo119Richard A. Violette, Jr.7/2
77Domain's Rap (IL)Ramon A. Vazquez114Federico Villafranco12/1
88Effinex (NY)Mike E. Smith121James A. Jerkens2/1