“Until one has loved an animal, part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” ~ Anatole France
Some of us, including myself, find themselves connected to certain horses on a deeper, more powerful level. Now, don’t misunderstand; I love ALL horses, but there are just those select few that touch my life in a way unlike others. I have yet to find the words to describe what separates those few from the rest, but I can certainly try.
With that said, I can sit here and tell you all of what Grade 1 winner and New York-bred Effinex accomplished in the six years he graced this Earth. I can tell you that he defeated Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist in the 2015 G2 Suburban Handicap. I can tell you that after finishing fourth in the 2015 G1 Woodward, third in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and second in the Breeders Cup Classic to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, he finally won his first G1 race; the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. I can tell you that Effinex went on to win the Suburban Handicap two years in a row….
I can tell you all of these things….
But, so can anyone else.
I opt to provide you with a different view to pay tribute to the beautiful life of such an exceptional horse like Effinex, because that is certainly what he deserves.
The bay colt was not just what he put forth on the racetrack. To me, and many, many others, he was much, much more than that. Effinex is one of those very special horses who touched my life so profoundly.
I first got wind of Effinex when he won the Empire Classic at Belmont Park back in 2014. I found his name to be incredibly intriguing, and I let out a little giggle when I realized what it COULD mean. I looked back at his record, and, on paper, he looked like a thoroughbred with great bloodlines who simply needed time to mature. I followed Effinex from that day on. I was astonished at how consistent he became and the progress he made in the following months.
I believe that some horses, like Effinex, are born with an internal grit; tenacity, resolve and a true fortitude, with the will to win. He was steadfast and you could never omit him from conversation when discussing a race he was slated for.
I remember how excited the world of horse racing was when it was announced that American Pharoah would be running in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic. I recall looking at the probables, and when I saw Effinex listed, it was a game-changer for me. I told anyone I knew who would listen that Effinex would finish second if he could not beat American Pharoah. There were other horses who stood just as good of a chance at victory, such as Keen Ice, who had previously defeated American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes, Frosted, and Honor Code, to name a few. My intuition told me that Effinex would shine like the bright star he was and deserved to be. Sure enough, he finished 2nd to American Pharoah in what was arguably one of the best performances of his career.
Effinex went on to race in 2016. I was fortunate enough to be at Belmont Park the day he won the Suburban Handicap for the second year in a row. He was the reason and the only reason I trekked to the racetrack on that hot, July day, and boy, did he make my trip absolutely worth it. I screamed until I could scream no more and cried happy tears until I could cry no more when he crossed that finish line first. I jumped up and down, ecstatic about the performance he had just put on. “I LOVE THIS HORSE!” is all I could repeat, over and over again to anyone who could hear me.
It was a day that will remain etched in my memory for the rest of my life.
Effinex raced four more times that year before being retired. It was announced that he would stand stud at Questroyal North in Stillwater, NY, a few miles from Saratoga Springs. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Effinex at his new home quite a few times.
Effinex exuded pride like that of a typical stallion; he was full of energy and nippy. I was never aware of what a beautiful, thick forelock he possessed until I was able to see him in his stall with no racing equipment on. You could barely tell that a white star adorned his forehead unless you moved his entire fluffy forelock to the side. His physique was vast and powerful, with immense chest muscles. He sported a halter with his name embossed on it, but the look in his eye told you all that you needed to know about who he was. He was extremely alert and aware of any noise outside the barn, whether it was a bird chirping, a plane flying by, or the wind blowing. He knew when you were speaking to him. He knew his name, and there is no doubt in my mind that he knew exactly who he was.
The evening I heard the news of his passing, I was with friends. My phone was tucked away in my purse. When I finally took it out to see if I had received any messages, I saw a slew of notifications on my phone. I opened messages from a colleague of mine, asking me if I “saw the news” and telling me I “must be heartbroken” because she was, too. My stomach dropped and I could feel a lump in my throat forming. I asked myself, “what could she be talking about?” I opened Facebook and I saw multiple notifications; atypical notifications that I would not receive otherwise from horse racing fans I network with.
Then, I saw the wretched words:
“Megan, Effinex passed away.”
I was in such shock that everything around me became a blur. My friends were conversing, and I heard none of it. How could this be true? Was this a sick joke? This can’t be.
I eventually saw the headline:
“Grade 1 winner Effinex dies after aneurysm.”
I could hold back my tears no longer. All of my friends knew of my fondness for Effinex, as I had told them about my visits with him and showed them photos I took. They comforted me and were apologetic. I went home that night and bawled. I looked back at the photos I took of him and remembered all of the times I was able to see him, from when he arrived at the farm to the very last time I saw him; full of spunk and life.
I am holding back tears this very moment as I write this for you all. Effinex was no ordinary horse to me. I will carry the many memories I have of him with me for the rest of my life. He is a true example of how life is so very precious and ephemeral.
My hope is that through my words, I was able to convey what I meant by a connection with a horse that is simply deeper, as Effinex is the epitome of such.
My thoughts are with all of those who knew him, loved him, cared for him, and cheered for him.
I leave you with a poem:
“Somewhere… somewhere in time’s own space
There must be some sweet, pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some Paradise where horses go.
For by the love that guides my pen,
I know great horses live again.”
~ Stanley Harrison
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