Mr. Commons, who has already captured a pair of grade II races at one mile on the turf during the Santa Anita meet, drew the rail as the likely favorite for the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) March 3.
The John Shirreffs-trained 4-year-old son of Artie Schiller faces seven opponents in the one-mile Kilroe, which precedes the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). The Kilroe follows the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies on the program.
Racing for his Kentucky breeder, St. George Farm Racing, the late-running Mr. Commons breaks from the rail for the first time in his career. He has won the Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIT) and Arcadia Stakes (gr. IIT) in succession at the meet and now takes aim at his first grade I victory for Shirreffs.
Mr. Commons loves the distance, winning four of seven starts with two seconds, as well as the Santa Anita course, over which he is four-for-six and never out of the money.
In his most recent start in the Feb. 4 Arcadia, Mr. Commons had to dig in late at 2-5 odds to hold off the rallying Willyconker by one length while completing the mile in 1:33.41. Willyconker returns for the Kilroe and Mr. Commons will also have to deal with the likes of Jeranimo, who defeated him in last fall's Oak Tree Mile Stakes (gr. IIT) over the course, and the always-tough Compari.
Mike Smith is back aboard Mr. Commons, who carries 120 pounds, three fewer than he had for the Arcadia.
Jeranimo, who races for trainer Michael Pender and owner B.J. Wright, cuts back in distance after fading in the final furlong of the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel Stakes (gr. IIT).
In an oddly run race, the 6-year-old son of Congaree found himself in the unusual position of being on the lead early after bobbling at the break in the San Gabriel. He would finish second, 1 1/2 lengths behind the rallying Norvsky, who is entered in the Santa Anita Handicap.
The versatile Jeranimo was a sharp late-running winner of the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) in November and defeated Mr. Commons by three parts of a length after pressing the pace in the Oak Tree Mile.
Both Mr. Commons and Jeranimo competed in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs after their Oak Tree clash. Mr. Commons finished fifth, Jeranimo seventh.
Jeranimo, a narrow third in last year's Kilroe Mile behind Fluke and Caracortado, has won four of his 11 starts on grass. The bay, to be ridden again by Martin Garcia, drew post 5.
The Irish-bred Willyconker made his stakes debut in the Arcadia for trainer Doug O'Neill, who claimed the bay gelding on behalf of a partnership last summer at Del Mar for $40,000. The 5-year-old son of Pyrus won three consecutive starts late last year for his new connections. Joel Rosario takes the mount.
Compari, a one-mile grass specialist that does especially well at Santa Anita (six-for-eight lifetime), has won both of his starts at the meet this year. Last year's Arcadia winner most recently captured the Sensational Star Stakes over state-breds Jan. 28.
The 6-year-old Redattore gelding races for his breeders Harris Farms, Donald Valpredo, and John Nicoletti, and is trained by Marty Jones.
Stakes winner Jimmy Simms gets his season started for trainer Steve Asmussen. The 7-year-old son of Lost Soldier was most recently fifth in the Fayette Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland last October. He is a six-time winner in 13 starts on grass.
Massone, third in the Arcadia at 45-1 odds, recent allowance optional claiming winner Mega Heat, and Make Music for Me complete the field.
$300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT, Race 10, 5:08 p.m. PT), 4 & Up (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Mr. Commons (KY), M E Smith, 120, J A Shirreffs
2. Jimmy Simms (KY), C S Nakatani, 118, S M Asmussen
3. Willyconker (IRE), J Rosario, 118, D F O'Neill
4. Compari (CA), R Bejarano, 118, M F Jones
5. Jeranimo (FL), M Garcia, 120, M Pender
6. Massone (KY), A Quinonez, 118, T Yakteen
7. Make Music for Me (KY), C Sutherland, 118, A Barba
8. Mega Heat (CA), J Talamo, 118, P Eurton