06/05/2013 2:13PM

Belmont Park: Mr. Commons tries to end eight-race skid in Jaipur


ELMONT, N.Y. – Mr. Commons is far and away the class of the field in Friday’s $150,000 Jaipur Stakes at Belmont Park, having competed almost exclusively in Grade 1 and Grade 2 races since first gaining national attention with his third-place finish in the 2011 Santa Anita Derby.

But Mr. Commons has not won a race in 16 months, a drought trainer John Shirreffs hopes to end Friday by dropping his turf specialist into the Grade 3 Jaipur.

Mr. Commons has not visited the winner’s circle since capturing the Grade 2 Arcadia going a mile over the Santa Anita turf course in February 2012. He’s had plenty of close calls during his current eight-race losing streak, having finished second in one Grade 1 event, second in a pair of Grade 2 races, and third in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile behind Horse of the Year Wise Dan at Keeneland on April 12.

“It’s been a while since he’s won, but he’s a horse who always shows up, hasn’t had great trips, and was unlucky to lose several of those races,” Shirreffs said. “He was down on the inside and didn’t have a clear path on the turn last time at Keeneland, and he’s the type who definitely prefers to be on the outside, where he can have clear running room down the stretch.”

[BROOKLYN HANDICAP: Get Friday's Belmont past performances]

Getting Mr. Commons to the outside for a clear run to the wire in the seven-furlong Jaipur will be the responsibility of jockey Luis Saez. That job got a little tougher after Mr. Commons drew post 1 in a field of nine scheduled to contest the race if it goes on the turf, as scheduled.

“I’m just hoping he can finally get a clean trip and doesn’t have to check too much,” Shirreffs said. “Unfortunately, that’s what turf racing is all about. It always seems to get a little tight down in there.”

Unlike Mr. Commons, who has kept a steady diet of graded-stakes competition throughout his career, Summer Breezing will be testing those waters for the first time in the Jaipur. Summer Breezing has won four of eight career starts, including a third-level optional claimer over the Keeneland Polytrack on April 26.

“It’s a big jump, but he belongs in this company – it’s the right race for him,” trainer Christophe Clement said. “He loves six to seven furlongs, and he’s not the kind of horse who needs to be on the lead. He’s got pace, too, but he can be anyplace he wants. That will be up to the jockey. I train them; he rides them. If the ground is firm, he should be very competitive.”

Summer Breezing will be reunited with jockey Jose Lezcano, who guided him to a pair of wins at 3 last year, including a seven-furlong overnight stakes at Belmont.

Whether the Jaipur will be decided on firm ground, or remain on turf at all, is the big question, with rain in the forecast for Friday.

Softer turf likely would improve the chances of Beau Choix and Next Question. Beau Choix captured an overnight stakes going seven furlongs over a “good” course here Oct. 12. Next Question upset the Grade 1 Nearctic on similar footing two days later at Woodbine.

If the Jaipur is switched to the main track, Big Screen and main-track-only entrants Politicallycorrect, Reload, and Souper Speedy would be the major beneficiaries.

Big Screen, who has started just once on turf, exits a disappointing second-place finish as the 2-5 favorite under high-priced optional-claiming conditions here two weeks ago.

Politicallycorrect is a stakes winner on dirt, while Souper Speedy and Reload are coming off impressive main-track allowance victories.