Since blowing the doors off his competition in the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort Stakes back on opening day at Santa Anita, the handsome son of Artie Schiller has rattled off four furlongs in :48.40, five furlongs in :59.00, and six furlongs in 1:12.40. All of his recent workouts have come at Hollywood Park on their synthetic surfaced main track, with the last one happening this morning. Clearly, this is a classy horse and one that is doing very well. So the obvious question is what’s next for the John Shirreffs trainee?
Before answering that, let’s take a condensed version look at his career to date. It was one year ago when the horse I expect to become America’s best turf horse first came to my attention. In a maiden turf sprint at Santa Anita, Mr. Commons won by more than five lengths in blazing time. It seemed like a new turf star was born. Not so fast my friends. Shirreffs, of Zenyatta mega-fame, decided that the colt had shown enough ability in workouts on the main track to place him on the Kentucky Derby trail. A turf career would have to wait.
A win in a mile allowance race on the dirt preceded entry in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby where a third place finish kept the Derby dream alive for his connections. Lacking sufficient earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby, the bay colt owned by St. George Farm Racing would be instead sent to Baltimore for the Preakness, where he faded in the stretch to finish eighth. The young horse would be given a rest, and returned to the turf.
Back on the grass, Mr. Commons flourished. He won the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar in style, before back-to-back narrow losses in his first two tries against topnotch older horses. As he had done in the Preakness, Sheriffs demonstrated big confidence in his charge and sent him to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. There would be no luck in Kentucky though, as the only American three-year-old in the field was hampered by a horrid trip and checked in fifth, while only 4 1/2 lengths behind the winner. Back in California, and back in against sophomores, Mr. Commons treated his competition with disdain in the Sir Beaufort on December 26.
That’s where his career stands now. Arguably the top grass miler in California, Mr. Commons, in my mind anyway, is on the verge of a huge 2012, but will it be on his seemingly best surface of grass? Maybe, but the dirt experiment might not be over. Reportedly, Shirreffs is mulling over a start in the upcoming Strub Stakes, which is interesting. As much as I’d like to see Mr. Commons stay on turf, the Strub is a big race, and this is the time of the year to roll the dice. Obviously he has some ability on surfaces other than turf, and who knows, if he is as good as I believe he is, maybe he can be a major winner on dirt as well.
I say go for it … just as long as they have him back on the turf in time for the Arlington Million.