HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- The rivalry that began in Southern California moved to Arkansas on Saturday when Effinex turned the tables on Melatonin and darted to a length win in the Grade 2, $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap. The pair last met in the Santa Anita Handicap, which Melatonin won over third-place finisher and favorite Effinex.
The Oaklawn Handicap was one of four stakes run on the final day of the meet. The purse for the race was boosted from $600,000 to $750,000 and the field assembled was one of the strongest in recent years for the Oaklawn Handicap.
Effinex ($5.40) broke well under Mike Smith and tracked Melatonin through fractions of 23.18 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.85 for the half-mile. He moved to the front through six furlongs in 1:12.05 and went on to win while covering 1-1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.
"He battled with Melatonin down the backside and just kicked it into another gear," said Smith.
"It was big to see him lay that close that easily," said winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens. "I thought [his finish] was good. He got the lead, did what he had to do. He's not one that's going to draw away. I thought he had something left. He saw that horse come back up the inside of him and took off again."
Effinex was the first Oaklawn starter for Jerkens, who came to Hot Springs back in 1992 to run a horse for his father, the late Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens.
Jimmy Jerkens said plans are to be determined with Effinex.
"The Breeders' Cup, that's the goal," he said. "He's already been out to California. We'll try to spot him as best we can leading up to that, keep him on a six-week [between races] schedule at least. It seems to work for him."
Jerkens said Effinex will return to his base at Belmont Park.
Melatonin ran a competitive race in finishing second, said jockey Joe Talamo.
"We had a great trip," Talamo said. "The winner was to the outside of me the whole way. My horse tried hard and gave a great effort. I was very proud of his race. He ran a great race in defeat."
Point Piper finished third, 2-3/4 lengths behind Melatonin. The remaining order of finish was Blofeld, Upstart, Domain's Rap, Carve, and Financial Modeling.
Effinex earned $450,000 for his win in the Oaklawn Handicap. He has now won five stakes, chief among them the Grade 1 Clark Handicap last fall at Churchill Downs. He also ran second to American Pharoah in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Effinex overall has won 8 of 22 starts and $2,682,950.
Effinex is a son of Mineshaft. He was bred in New York by Dr. Russell Cohen. The horse races for Tri-Bone Stables.