SIR BEAUFORT STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | GRADE 2 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | 1 MILE
ARCADIA, Calif. -- Mike Smith got through aboard Mr. Commons in early stretch of Monday's $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes at Santa Anita and that was all that counted. For a moment, there was plenty of suspense as to what path the Hall of Fame jockey would take aboard the favored Mr. Commons and whether a ground-saving strategy would work.
Smith had Mr. Commons in third with a furlong remaining in the one-mile turf race, behind the fading pacesetter Comma to the Top and Ultimate Eagle. Smith kept Mr. Commons toward the inside, found space between rivals, and was immediately rewarded. Mr. Commons ($4.20) scooted clear in the final sixteenth to win by 3 1/4 lengths, finishing in a quick 1:33.84.
"Since I got through, it was great," Smith said. "I've learned that you can point this horse at a wall and he'll run through it if I ask him to. He really does everything you tell him.
"Normally when you're that big of a favorite you'll probably go around, but I was going to be able to cut the corner and make up three lengths. All I need is a very small seam with him."
Aside from early stretch drama, Mr. Commons had a good trip in the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort. Comma to the Top, second in the Santa Anita Derby in April, set a quick pace of 22.75 and 45.47, while being harassed by the 36-1 longshot Riveting Reason. After a half-mile Riveting Reason faded, and Comma to the Top led by 2 1/2 lengths with a quarter-mile remaining. Mr. Commons trailed by six lengths at that point, but displayed the turn of foot that has led to four wins in 10 starts and earnings of $473,660 to win the Sir Beaufort.
Irish Art, a 9-1 outsider, closed from fourth to finish second, three-quarters of a length in front of third-place finisher Ultimate Eagle, the winner of the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby and Grade 1 Hollywood Derby in the autumn. Cozy Kitten, Venomous, Comma to the Top, Riveting Reason and Moment of Weakness completed the order of finish.
Mr. Commons races for Ian and Caroline Banwell of Charlotte, N.C., and trainer John Shirreffs. Earlier this year, Mr. Commons won the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar, and was second in two Grade 2 stakes – the Del Mar Mile and Oak Tree Mile here. He was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Mile, finishing 4 1/2 lengths behind the winner, Court Vision.