Boston Common and Gary Stevens, right, defeat Summer Service and Mike Smith to win the El Conejo Handicap, Thursday at Santa Anita.

Boston Common and Gary Stevens, right, defeat Summer Service and Mike Smith to win the El Conejo Handicap, Thursday at Santa Anita.


Boston Common Right at Home in El Conejo

Richard Englander's Boston Common passed his Jeff Mullins-trained stablemate – 7-5 favorite King Robyn – in the stretch and went on to defeat the furiously closing Summer Service by a neck in Thursday's $107,600 El Conejo Handicap (gr. III) at Santa Anita.

The winning time for the 5 1/2-furlong dirt test for older horses was 1:02 1/5, three-fifths off the track record.

Boston Common, a top flight eastern sprinter for most of his career, was recently shifted to Mullins' barn from Maryland-based Michael Pino. He won the Oakland Handicap at Golden Gate in the mud on Dec. 6 in his most recent start following a seventh-place finish in the DeFrancis Memorial at Laurel in November.

Ridden by Gary Stevens, Boston Common relaxed off a sizzling early pace, cruised up into contention while three paths wide on the turn for home and took aim at King Robyn, who was aiming for his fifth consecutive stakes win.

After dueling briefly in the stretch, Boston Common edged away from King Robyn while lugging in. But he dug down in the closing yards under left-handed whipping to hold off Summer Service and jockey Mike Smith.

"Jeff told me just to hang on, the horse would do all the work," Stevens said. "He did. What can I say about him? He's just a classy, classy horse. I had a lot of fun out there."

Mullins said Englander had shifted some of his large horse operation recently.

"Mr. Englander moved a lot of horses around and we were lucky to get him," Mullins said.

Summer Service bobbled slightly at the start, but was flying late to just miss.

King Robyn's front-running style was compromised by the fast fractions. Ridden by Alex Solis, King Robyn held the lead tenaciously from Giovannetti through a :21 1/5 opening quarter-mile and a :43 4/5 half. In the stretch, Giovannetti gave way and King Robyn opened up briefly, but could not hold off the two closers, finishing 1 1/2 length behind. Hasty Kris finished fourth.

A 5-year-old bay gelding by Boston Harbor-Especially (by Mr. Prospector), Boston Common won his first graded stakes since taking the Jerome Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont in September 2002.

He earned $64,560 for his New Year's victory while improving his career line to 10-7-4 in 28 starts. He has won $531,917.

Overbrook Farm bred the winner in Kentucky.

The 9-2 fourth choice of the public in a field of six, Boston Common paid $11.60, $5 and $3.40. Summer Service returned $4.60 and $3.20. King Robyn's show was $2.80. The $2 exacta was worth $53.60.

Grimm, Rojo Toro and Avanzado scratched.

(Chart, Equibase)