Mr. Commons took another step on what his connections hope will be a special campaign when he rallied from off the pace to win the $150,000 Arcadia Stakes (gr. IIT) on turf Feb. 4 for his second graded win of the Santa Anita meet (VIDEO).
Mike Smith gave St. George Farm's homebred Mr. Commons a confident ride as the 2-5 favorite in the one-mile Arcadia. Mr. Commons had to withstand a stewards' inquiry into the stretch run before the finish was official. The 4-year-old son of Artie Schiller defeated Willyconker by one length while timed in a swift 1:33.41 on firm turf.
John Shirreffs trains Mr. Commons, who has established himself as the top turf miler on the West Coast. Mr. Commons won the one-mile Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIT) from off the pace by 3 1/4 lengths to begin the meet Dec. 26. In the Arcadia, he improved his career mark to 5-2-1 in 11 lifetime starts with earnings of $563,660.
Mr. Commons raced next-to-last in the field of seven early, angling to the inside for Smith after breaking from the far outside post. Dewey's Special, leaving from the rail, set the pace over M One Rifle while carving moderate fractions of :22.8, :46.26, and 1:09.55.
Rounding the far turn, Mr. Commons edged a couple of paths off the inside into a pocket of horses to pass the retreating Pathfork on his inside. Mr. Commons then dove to an opening at the rail, appearing to briefly impede the rallying Massone as M One Rifle gave way. Mr Commons emerged with lead on the inside past mid-stretch and held off the Irish-bred Willyconker under some right-handed urging.
“I didn’t feel I bothered anybody because I accelerated so quickly," Smith said. "I think Corey (Nakatani on Massone) thought I was going to interfere with him but I accelerated so fast I got out of his way before there could be any trouble."
“He’s just incredible," Smith said of Mr. Commons. "Like I said before, he makes me feel like a kid again. When I ride him he gives me a whole lot of guts because I believe in him so much. I know that he’s going to go anywhere I ask him to go, and he does it with extreme acceleration. He just makes my job really easy.”
Willyconker, who had a clear path on the outside for Rafael Bejarano, finished a half-length in front of 45-1 shot Massone, who followed Mr. Commons through on the inside.
Bred in Kentucky, Mr. Commons is out of the Apalachee mare Joustabout. Winner of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar last year, he ran second in both the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) and the Oak Tree Mile (gr. IIT). The tractable bay colt finished a troubled fifth in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) last fall at Churchill Downs.
"Last year he was a little immature and had a little trouble in the race (BC Mile)," Shirreffs said. "Now he’s handling tight spots very well . . . There’s so much difference between him now and when he ran in the Santa Anita Derby (third last April 9), you cannot imagine. Totally different. Experience is a great teacher.”
Shirreffs said he was unsure if Mr. Commons would go on to the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IT) March 3 at Santa Anita.
"We’ll see," he said. "Hopefully we can make that race. It’s hard to say right away.”
The winner carried top weight of 123 pounds and paid $2.80, $2.40, $2.10. The hard-trying gelding Willyconker returned $4.80 and $3.40 while completing a $10.80 exacta. Massone was $6.40 to show.
Calimonco finished 4 1/2 lengths farther back in fourth, followed by Dewey's Special, Pathfork, and M One Rifle. El Gato Malo, entered in the San Antonio Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 5, was scratched.