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Blanc Gets Opportunity With Mr. Commons

They don’t call Brice Blanc a journeyman jockey for nothing. Not once, not twice, but three times the 39-year-rider drove some 200 miles just to exercise a horse for one minute or thereabouts. Now that’s a journey, man.

The trip was from Del Mar to Hollywood Park and back, and the horse was Mr. Commons, trained by John Shirreffs. Quid pro quo resulted as Blanc rides the 4-year-old Artie Schiller colt Saturday in the inaugural Arroyo Seco Mile, a Grade II event on the turf.

“I had been working some horses for John, and one morning he asked me to work Mr. Commons, because Mike (Smith, who had ridden Mr. Commons nine straight times and 12 overall) had a commitment on Royal Delta in New York,” Blanc explained.

“When John gave me the opportunity to ride Mr. Commons, I was really excited about it.” First time was not the charm, however. In his maiden voyage on Mr. Commons, Blanc was second by a nose to Obviously in the Grade II Del Mar Mile on Aug. 26 in track record time.

“When you get beat a nose and they set a track record, it’s a tough beat,” Blanc said. “Mr. Commons is a good horse and his last two works have been awesome.”

Blanc, who is represented by agent Mike Ciani, has been a mainstay in Southern California for more than 15 years. He has managed to keep the wolf away from the door, but not without persistent faith and effort.

“It’s tough; it’s always been tough here,” said Blanc, who still carries unmistakable traces of a French accent. “You don’t come to Southern California and expect to jump from northing to being on top. It’s hard when you’re kind of ticketed as a certain type of rider.

“I just don’t have that type of business to ride in a lot of claiming races. People don’t really come to me. It’s not that I don’t want to ride them, but they don’t come to me to ride speed horses.

“I get horses that need to relax, or grass horses, so it slows my business down quite a bit and it’s hard to stay on top all the time. I don’t have big barns where I ride a lot of horses. When you do that, you have a flow of horses every week and that helps keep your business going and helps you win.

“When you ride only a few horses in each barn, if they get hurt you’re out of the loop until they come back. But it’s tough everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you go, especially nowadays. The economy being so bad, it’s really hurt the business everywhere.

“When I rode in Kentucky years ago, there were 30 (horses) excluded in a maiden grass race, so you had maybe three calls to get lucky and have one get in . . . It’s hurting everywhere, so I’m not looking to leave California.

“The beauty of California is, you never know. You can pick up a horse like Mr. Commons at any time. You just have to stick to it, you have to work hard and just get lucky.”

The field for the Arroyo Seco: Mr. Commons, Brice Blanc, 8-5; Trailblazer, Yutaka Take, 5-1; Obviously, Joe Talamo, 1-1; Kettle Corn, Garrett Gomez, 6-1; and Midnight Interlude, Martin Garcia, 8-1.



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