Effinex the One to Beat in Stephen Foster Handicap

Stephen Foster Handicap is ‘Win and You’re In’ Race for Breeders’ Cup Classic

The Downs after Dark program at Churchill features five graded stakes Saturday, including the Grade I $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap.

Effinex returns this weekend as the 6-5 favorite after winning the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap April 16. With eight wins in 22 starts and over $2.6 million in earnings, Effinex is among the elite older horses currently running. The 5-year old has raised his game the past 12 months with three wins including the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill in November as the 2-1 favorite. Effinex was second to American Pharoah in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, and the son of Mineshaft has the tactical speed to run a similar race of the same nine furlong distance as the Clark when he took over in the stretch in a long drive. A ‘Win and You’re In’ victory here and Effinex qualifies for the richest race of the year November 5 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Gary Stevens is aboard for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

Bradester is dangerous in here as the top speed, and he’s been training over the Churchill track since May with a pair of bullet five furlong works. His lone race this year was a wire-to-wire victory in the mile Majestic Light Stakes at Monmouth May 21 as the heavy favorite. He faded badly at 16-1 in the Breeders’ Cup mile last fall, and while he steps up in class here, his speed up front is noted as the 5-1 choice.

Eagle is the top threat to Effinex, and the son of Candy Ride turned in his best performance of his career April 16 winning the Grade III Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland. He chased the early speed as the 2-1 favorite and won at this same distance. He followed that race with a runner-up in the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill May 6 as the second choice, and he’ll be rated and running when they turn for home.

Eight-year-old Majestic Harbor completes the top-4 betting choices, and the 2014 Gold Cup winner has a pair of stakes wins this year.  He’s won 10 times with eight places in 41 races and has not slowed down with this year’s wins including the Alysheba Stakes here as the 13-1 long shot with Corey Lanerie aboard. He’s another with the tactical speed who can move to the front on the backstretch if the pace is slower. Must consider.

Are You Kidding Me has run best on Polytrack or turf, and the combination of dirt and moving up in class has him as co-longshot at 12-1 with El Kabeir, who scratched from the Grade I Met Mile to run here and International Star, who won the 2015 Louisiana Derby.

The carryover pool for the Single Six Jackpot has grown to $560,991 after 21 days.

Post time for the first of 11 Downs After Dark races is 6 p.m ET, and General admission to Churchill Downs is $10 on Saturday night’s Downs After Dark celebration. The Stephen Foster Handicap is Race 8 with post time at 9:39 ET.

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