07/09/2016 7:17PM

Effinex continues Jerkens family success in Suburban Handicap

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Barbara D. Livingston
Effinex, ridden by Mike Smith, wins the Suburban Handicap for the second time.

ELMONT, N.Y, - Effinex added another chapter to the Jerkens family legacy in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap, successfully defending his title in the 130-year-old fixture with a hard-fought neck decision over a game Samraat on Saturday at Belmont Park. It was the sixth time either Jimmy or his father, Allen Jerkens, have won the prestigious event.    

Effinex, who defeated Tonalist by a head to win the 2015 Suburban, is trained by Jimmy Jerkens Jr. His father won the race four times during his Hall of Fame career. Effinex also became the first horse to post back-to-back victories in the Suburban since Devil His Due turned the trick for the senior Jerkens in 1993-1994.

Effinex was ridden on Saturday by Mike Smith, who won the Suburban for the first time since guiding Devil His Due to victory here 22 years ago.

Samraat and jockey Jose Ortiz seized the opportunity to set a relatively slow pace in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban, coasting through a 25.31-second opening quarter-mile and 49.34 half-mile while racing well off the inside rail and stalked from the outset by Effinex. The two New York-breds continued to lead the way into the stretch, with Samraat gamely holding on to a narrow advantage before ultimately succumbing grudgingly to the winner near the end.                      

 Mubtaahij, the 2-1 favorite in a scratched-reduced field of seven older horses, angled in sharply to what appeared to be the deeper footing along the rail while attempting to rally near midstretch and finished third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Samraat. He in turn was followed by Eagle, Shaman Ghost, Turco Bravo, and Tapin Mojo. Noble Bird scratched earlier in the day.

Effinex, a son of Mineshaft owned by Tri-Bone Stables, covered the distance over a fast track in 2:01.04 and paid $6.30.

“I’ve always loved this race,” said Jimmy Jerkens. “I remember when I was a little kid, my father won it a bunch of times. He always used to love to run in it any time he could. He was a New York guy and those New York handicap races always meant a lot to him. And it does to me too.”

Jerkens credited Smith for a perfectly judged ride aboard Effinex, whom he previously guided to wins in the Grade 1 Clark and Grade 2 Oaklawn Park handicaps.

“He [Smith] just seems to have a way with him,” said Jerkens. “He drifted a bit and raced well off the fence. I think he might let him do it to race out in the better part of the track.”

Jerkens said all options are open for Effinex’s next start, including the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga on Aug.  6.

“I can’t rule anything out,” said Jerkens. “The Whitney might be a little close and I’d probably like to sit it out. But sometimes you’re better off to just keep running with a horse like him. I guess it will all depend on how he’s doing, and who’s running.”

Smith, who has now won the Suburban three times, said “I’m so blessed to be able to come back to New York to ride for the Jerkens family. I’ve gotten the opportunity to ride him [Effinex] at the right time, every time.  The horse acted right today. I was able to put him in a good spot on the outside. He got to loafing a little bit at the end, and he made me work for my money, anyway.”