Point/Counterpoint: Brilliant Speed vs. Mr. Commons

Point/Counterpoint: Brilliant Speed vs. Mr. Commons

This week we welcome Ed DeRosa, Director of Marketing at Brisnet, to the Point-Counterpoint arena, where he debates the merits of rising turf star Brilliant Speed with Managing Editor Brian Zipse, who says Mr. Commons is the one to watch.

Across The Pond

Ed DeRosa:

For the first time since 1998-1999 the winners of each of the Triple Crown races will (God willing) return to action as four-year-olds, but the 2008 foal crop offers plenty of excitement beyond the Classic division. Hopefully Animal Kingdom, Shackleford, and Ruler On Ice can renew their rivalry better than Real Quiet and Victory Gallop did, as those classic winners from 1998 never raced each other following the Belmont Stakes, but returnees in other divisions hint at the chance of budding rivalries as well.

The Sprint/Dirt Mile divisions could see Caleb’s Posse and The Factor hook up down the line, but the division that interests me most is the turf with Brilliant Speed and Mr. Commons both focusing on that surface following a classic campaign in spring 2011.

For now, the Brilliant Speed-Mr. Commons rivalry exists only in theory, as the former contested the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (seventh) and Belmont Stakes (third) while the latter was in the Preakness (eighth). They then went their own separate ways on their respective coasts before somewhat converging at Breeders’ Cup where Brilliant Speed finished third in the Turf and Mr. Commons was fifth in the Mile.  

I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Brilliant Speed’s connections picking their spots on dirt, though admittedly the handicap division looks tougher this year than it did in 2011.

Brilliant Speed is by Dynaformer and Mr. Commons is by Artie Schiller, so I would expect both horses to target the same races again in 2012 at Santa Anita, but the Arlington Million at 1 ¼ miles could provide an interesting test for the two of them, and based on what I know right now, my money would be on Brilliant Speed in that heat.

Which makes that potential meeting in your backyard all the more exciting. If both were to run the table otherwise, then the Arlington Million could decide the championship. I know that race was a big reason I voted for Cape Blanco as Horse of the Year and champion turf male.

Ironically, Mr. Commons has shown more brilliance, with a win sprinting down the hill and a one-mile win on dirt to his credit as well. Brilliant Speed needed five tries, 1 1/16 miles on the turf, and class relief at Tampa Bay Downs to break his maiden. The good news with him, though, is being by Dynaformer means he probably will improve with age, and I liked that in his last three races of 2011 he laid closer to the pace.

Who is Stateside anymore? Mr. Commons wouldn’t be any match for Frankel.
I was crushed last year (2010) when the connections of then-three-year-old Paddy O’Prado opted for the Classic against Blame, Zenyatta, etc. rather than the Turf against Dangerous Midge, but it’s a move I would have endorsed with Brilliant Speed this year. I happen to think he’s as good on dirt as turf, and any improvement off his 105 BRIS Speed Rating from the Belmont would have been right there against Drosselmeyer and Game On Dude. 
I expect to see that improvement this year, and he is my early pick for most likely Eclipse Award winner of 2012, and even if that doesn’t come to pass, I’m fairly confident it won’t be at the expense of Mr. Commons, who has yet to win a Grade 1 and has performed worse than Brilliant Speed on both the classic and Breeders’ Cup stages. 

For Brisnet.com lifetime past performances—including speed, pace, race, and class ratings—click here for Brilliant Speed and here for Mr. Commons.

Brian Zipse:

Ed, you are right on target so far. There were less major retirements at the end of 2011 among the three-year-olds than any year in recent memory, and it is far from limited to the winners of the Triple Crown races. So much so, that it would be no stretch to say that every division in racing for older horses is deeper than this time last year. Older classic distance horses, sprinters, and milers of both genders, and on any surface, have a depth of talent that seems to be all too unusual of late.

I think I am most looking forward to the day when all the good older females like Havre de Grace, Awesome Maria, Royal Delta, Awesome Feather, and Zazu enter the same starting gate. You do bring up another especially interesting division, though. The American turf males could find a resurgence this year that may make it more of a struggle for the Europeans to dominate when coming over four our biggest grass races this year. My chief reason for this is the up-and-coming turf star, Mr. Commons.

Primarily a turf horse, I don’t worry too much about Mr. Commons 3rd place finish in the Santa Anita Derby, or his 8th in the Preakness. Both horses proved they can hold their own on the dirt, but I think both also will prove best on the grass.

Back to the Breeders’ Cup, I only wish that Mr. Commons had the chance that Brilliant Speed got in the Turf. In the Mile, Mr. Commons had nowhere to run for the key part of the race. He was steadied and then was shoved to the outside, effectively ending his chances to beat his older competitors, although he still managed to finish in the top-third, despite his troubles.

Yes, this may be a rivalry that gets only one chance to come to fruition on the track. While Mr. Commons will likely be pointed for races between 8-10 furlongs, Brilliant Speed looks like the type that will be best at distances of ten furlongs on up. So the race could play host to their only meeting, and I sure hope it does.

As for the Breeders’ Cup, I would expect them to be pointed to the same races you mentioned they ran in 2011. In both cases, I prefer the chances of Mr. Commons as the more likely winner.

Brilliant Speed ran a good race in the BC Turf, but let’s face it, he was absolutely no match for the European males when the real running began.

With only 2 wins in 8 turf races, and 3 of 14 lifetime he will need not only to improve with age, but he will also need to prove that he is a horse who likes to win. Meanwhile, the more lightly raced Mr. Commons was already very close to beating top older horses on three different occasions, and with a little luck could have won any of the three. With maturity, I would expect the grand looking son of Artie Schiller to blow down the door he was knocking on last year.

Hmmm, I see him as more of a horse who relishes a distance. His third in the Belmont was the only time he has finished in the money in five tries on dirt. In any case, this discussion is about turf, a surface on which Mr. Commons has three wins, and two close seconds out of six starts, with only the nightmare trip in the BC Mile ruining his sparkling record on the green. Furthermore, he proved his superiority against California three-year-olds with three dominating efforts against his peers last year.


Judging by his romp in last week’s Grade 2 Sir Beaufort, I think his first grade 1 win will not be too far in the future. I should point out that on turf, Mr. Commons has more wins, more stakes wins, and a higher graded win than Brilliant Speed, while racing in two fewer races. I expect only bigger and better things for Mr. Commons in 2012, from the spring in California, to the Arlington Million, through November, when the best horses in the world come to his backyard for the Breeders’ Cup.

Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to HRN, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing webcast HorseCenter, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars and is a Vox Populi committee member. He is a voter for racing's Hall of Fame, as well as a weekly NTRA poll voter. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

ZATT's Star of the Week
Life Is Good

Top Stories

One of the more solid angles in mud or slop races...
Check out Barn Tours on Horse Racing Nation Kenny...
Letruska and Malathaat will clash for a fourth tim...
This week on HorseCenter , your hosts Brian Zipse...
Infinite Diamond starts in a graded-stakes race fo...