Grade 1 winner Effinex , who entered stud in 2017, died suddenly Oct. 18 just before 9 p.m. ET due to a ruptured pulmonary artery, according to owner/breeder Dr. Russell Cohen.
"It is not a business to me. This is a passion," said Cohen, who is a veterinarian. "He is the kind of horse every owner should have at least once in their life. He filled a huge void in my life."
The New York-bred son of Mineshaft was relocated to McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds from Questroyal North about a month and a half ago. On Wednesday evening the last people to see him—a groom and a veterinarian with Rood & Riddle who lives in an apartment above the stallion barn—reported he was contently eating hay.
At approximately 8:50 p.m., the veterinarian heard a loud bang and went downstairs, where he found Effinex dead in his stall.
"He didn't thrash. He wasn't in pain. There was no damage to the stall or signs of struggle, like when a horse is in pain," said Joe McMahon, who owns and runs the farm with his family. "He just dropped. It is such a shock—an incredible shock."
Cohen, a practicing veterinarian for 30 years and New York native, was committed to standing his homebred star in New York.
"He is not just a New York-bred. He's third generation," Cohen said when the horse was retired a year ago. "And despite all he's done for me, I owe him more. I want him here, where I can keep an eye on him. There's just a lot of emotion."
Raced by Cohen, Effinex ran from ages 3 through 5 and compiled a 9-3-4 record out of 28 starts. He won the 2015 Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs, the Suburban Handicap (G2) twice at Belmont Park (2015-16), and the 2016 Oaklawn Handicap (G2).
He earned a 127 Equibase Speed Figure in his first Suburban victory, in which he defeated Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tonalist by a head. He also earned 115 ratings in the Oaklawn Handicap and his second Suburban win. Even his runner-up effort to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland earned a 110 speed rating. Effinex, trained through the majority of his career by Jimmy Jerkens, retired with $3,312,950 in earnings.
Cohen said Oct. 19 that 103 mares were confirmed in foal to Effinex this year.
"Last year's book was great. This year's was twice as good," he said. "I feel badly for the industry, because this horse brought soundness. He also had a pretty special pedigree and was just a cool horse."
McMahon agreed Effinex's death was a big loss to the New York breeding program. The farm held an open house over the past weekend in conjunction with the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Fall mixed sale and 25 separate groups of breeders from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Kentucky showed up to see the stallion.
"It is a huge loss," McMahon said. "We have not had opportunities recently with horses of this caliber."
"But as bad as it is for us, it is a huge personal loss to Russell," McMahon continued, noting that Cohen drove straight to Saratoga from his home on Long Island as soon as he had heard the news and arrived at the farm at 1 a.m. Oct. 19. "He has worked hard as a veterinarian all his life and bred this really nice horse, and he was so incredibly proud of him. He never raced him on Lasix or (phenylbutazone) or anything, even when he had the opportunity to do it. He was his life's work."
Effinex will be buried at the farm next to grade 1 winner Personal Flag, who stood at McMahon of Saratoga from 1999 through 2003.
"Life goes on, but not so easily. Certainly not with the enthusiasm of only two days ago," McMahon said.