Reddam Racing's 2012 Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) winner Handsome Mike earned his first victory since that upset score at Parx Racing last September when he took the $175,000 Commonwealth Stakes (gr. III) April 13 at Keeneland (VIDEO) .
Cutting back to a sprint distance for the first time since breaking his maiden in October 2011, the 4-year-old son of Scat Daddy finished seven furlongs in 1:23.14 after trading places for the lead wtih Gantry through a quarter in :23.22 and a half in :46.31.
The Doug O'Neill trainee angled out for the drive and was actually headed by Gantry again in early stretch, but edged clear lateat odds of 7-2 under urging from jockey Mario Gutierrez. Following the top two in the five-horse field were Candyman E, Bind, and 2-1 favorite Bernie the Maestro.
"It was a perfect trip," Gutierrez said. "He broke really good. He was running comfortable the whole way. I waited as much as I could. He responded and we got the win."
Under equal weights of 118 pounds, Handsome Mike returned $9.40, $4.40, and $2.80. Gantry, 3-1 under jockey Richard Eramia for his first Polytrack run, paid $4.20 and $2.80. Candyman E brought $2.80 at 5-2.
"This is his first time on Polytrack, but he seemed to handle it fine," trainer Ron Fauxcheux said of Gantry, who came into the Commonwealth on a three-race streak of runner-up efforts in stakes company at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. "The extra furlong might have hurt him a bit. But I think it was more the other horse cutting back in distance.
"I've got no complaints. He ran very hard and Richard gave him a great ride. I've got to get this horse back in the winner's circle. He's too good not to be winning races."
Handsome Mike came off a dismal seventh-place finish in the March 2 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park after pressing the pace behind Game on Dude. Since winning the Pennsylvania Derby by two lengths at 19-1, he had not finished in the money in five starts in stakes company.
"He has run some really tough races," assistant trainer Leandro Morra said of Handsome Mike. "In the last race, he ran against Game On Dude, who is not an easy horse to beat. It looks like the (cutback in) distance is helping him."
The Commonwealth was the dark bay or brown colt's first start on Polytrack since a fourth-place finish in the 2012 Spiral Stakes (gr. III) at Turfway Park behind Went the Day Well, and his first victory on a synthetic surface. Bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis out of the Smart Strike mare Classic Strike, he improved his record to 3-1-1 from 16 starts, with earnings of $880,530.