A cutback in distance helped Handsome Mike end a five-race off-the-board skid that dated to his upset win in last year’s Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II).
Boasting last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winning connections of Reddam Racing, trainer Doug O’Neill, and jockey Mario Gutierrez, Handsome Mike led at every call to post a clear victory in the about seven-furlong Commonwealth Stakes (gr. III) April 13 on the Keeneland Polytrack. Handsome Mike, by Scat Daddy—Classic Strike, by Smart Strike, had raced exclusively in routes during the losing streak in which he was competing in top races such as the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I).
The Commonwealth is Handsome Mike’s first career win against older horses. He is not the only recent Pennsylvania Derby winner to win the Commonwealth as Sun King completed that double in 2005-06. Leandro Moro, assistant to O’Neill, said the long-term goal will be this year’s Pacific Classic (gr. I) on the Polytrack at Del Mar.
Handsome Mike is one of three horses bred by John Liviakis who raced in last year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park. Liviakis picked up Handsome Mike’s dam, Classic Strike, who was then in foal with the Scat Daddy colt, for $70,000 at the 2008 Keeneland November sale. Brian Kahn, agent, signed the ticket. Liviakis campaigned Handsome Mike in his first three juvenile starts, which included a grade III-placing, before selling him to J. Paul Reddam.
Handsome Mike is the first winner of two foals to race out of Classic Strike, who also has produced Handsome Dennis, by After Market, who has placed in one of his two starts this season. Classic Strike is a half sister to two-time stakes winner From Away, by Gulch.
The leading freshman sire of 2011 and second-leading second-crop sire of 2012, Scat Daddy boasts three other stakes winners this season in El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) winner Dice Flavor; Allanah, a stakes winner at Turfway Park; and Chilean stakes winner Solaria. On the same day Handsome Mike won the Commonwealth, Frac Daddy placed second in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I). A 9-year-old son of Johannesburg, Scat Daddy stands for $30,000 at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky.—F.A.