Jeranimo outfinishes Mr. Commons to win the Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita.

Jeranimo outfinishes Mr. Commons to win the Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita.

Benoit Photo

Jeranimo Gets Jump in Oak Tree Mile Victory

Staked to big lead in the stretch, he holds off odds-on choice Mr. Commons Oct. 8.

Always close to the leaders, Jeranimo  got the jump on Mr. Commons and proved to be too much for the 4-5 favorite to handle, winning the $150,000 Oak Tree Mile (gr. IIT) in brisk fashion at Santa Anita Oct. 8 (VIDEO).

With Martin Garcia in the irons for trainer Michael Pender and owner B.J. Wright, Jeranimo registered his first victory since taking the San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) over the same Santa Anita turf course last December. The final time for the Oak Tree Mile was a sprightly 1:32.61 over firm going.

Jeranimo was coming off a disappointing eighth-place showing in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) on Del Mar's Polytrack Aug. 28. The 5-year-old son of Congaree --Jera (by Jeblar) won for the first time in seven starts in 2011. Brylynn Farm bred the winner in Florida.

Pender dismissed the Pacific Classic effort, saying Jeranimo got into traffic trouble and spit the bit.

"Today he got the trip and you saw the result," the trainer said.

Seven contested the Oak Tree Mile. The 3-year-old Mr. Commons earned heavy favoritism after losing by a nose to Caracortado in his first try against older horses in the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 27. The Artie Schiller colt won the Oceanside Stakes impressively before that.

Mr. Commons, ridden by Mike Smith, dropped well off the pace as Jeranimo tracked early leader John Johny Jak and took the lead briefly before Monterey Jazz sprinted up on the outside to take command. The fractions were sharp -- :22.59, :45.00, 1:08.75 -- as Monterey Jazz, making his third start since returning from a layoff of more than 15 months, opened up a big lead going into the final turn.

Monterey Jazz couldn't maintain the tempo and Jeranimo passed him quickly as Mr. Commons, rallying from last, picked off the back markers heading into the stretch. But Jeranimo wasn't about to give way easily under Garcia. He owned a healthy 2 1/2-length lead at the eighth pole and finished up under steady handling to win by a measured three-quarters of a length.

“He has been running with some really tough horses so I think the group today was the perfect kind for him," Garcia said. "I let him run and do whatever he wanted to do, so he put himself in that position. I didn’t expect that I would have that much horse, but he’s a good horse.”

Mr. Commons was a clear second by  2 1/2 lengths over John Johny Jak, ridden by Rafael Bejarano.

“In the gate, he wasn’t settled, and he jumped forward and banged his head on one of the gates," trainer John Shirreffs said of Mr. Commons. "So he didn’t break as sharp as we would have liked. He ended up spotting them a couple lengths. Jeranimo ran here last year in 33 and change, so he’s a pretty nice horse.”

Jeranimo, winner of the Strub Stakes (gr. II) on Santa Anita's former synthetic track in February 2010, has now captured six of 22 starts with earnings of $660,400. He ran second to Acclamation in the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) at Del Mar prior to the Pacific Classic.

In spite of the fast time, Pender said he was not looking ahead to a potential start in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.

"I’m not going to get involved in that conversation," he said. "We’ll let the horse tell us what to do. We got a little bit ahead of ourselves sometimes with this horse in the past. We ran him in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) when he was a little bit under 100% and we don’t want to make that same mistake twice, so we’re just going to watch this horse. This horse is kind of tricky. Sometimes he’ll lay an egg on you if you’re not watching him close. Other times he’ll give you a race like today."

Shirreffs was also noncommittal about the BC Mile, saying he would confer with owner Ian Banwell of St. George Farm.

Under 121 pounds, Jeranimo, the second choice, paid $11.20, $4.40, and $3.20. He combined with Mr. Commons ($2.60, $2.40) for a $29 exacta. John Johny Jak paid $3.60 in his first try since winning the H.F. Brubaker Stakes on the Del Mar turf for trainer Kristin Mulhall Aug. 24.

Crown of Thorns, in his turf debut as the 124-pound top weight, finished fourth. He was followed by Blue Chagall, Monterey Jazz, and Calimonco . El Gato Malo and Victory Pete scratched.