08/25/2011 11:15AM

Del Mar: Mr. Commons gets test against elders in Del Mar Mile

Benoit & Associates
Mr. Commons goes in the Del Mar Mile instead of the Del Mar Derby.

DEL MAR, Calif. – The promise that Mr. Commons has shown this summer has led trainer John Shirreffs to take an uncharacteristic approach to the last weeks of the Del Mar meeting.

It would be easy for owner Ian Banwell and Shirreffs to point Mr. Commons to the $250,000 Del Mar Derby against 3-year-olds on Sept. 4. Instead, Mr. Commons has been entered in a more ambitious spot, Saturday’s $200,000 Del Mar Mile against older horses.

The Grade 2 Del Mar Mile is a race that fits in the long-term plan to start Mr. Commons in the Breeders’ Cup Mile this fall at Churchill Downs. Shirreffs needs to test Mr. Commons in the Del Mar Mile.

“He’s just getting better and better,” Shirreffs said. “We’re taking a bit of a chance, and the timing is good. The mile on the turf fits him well.”

Mr. Commons is already a stakes winner at the meeting, in the restricted Oceanside Stakes over a mile on turf for 3-year-olds July 20. The colt was considered for the La Jolla Handicap on Aug. 13, but missed the race because of a bruised foot.

“We’ve got a full shoe back on him,” Shirreffs said Wednesday. “He’s training very well.”

Mr. Commons made his turf stakes debut in the Oceanside. In the spring, he was third in the Santa Anita Derby and eighth in the Preakness Stakes. Since late spring, Shirreffs knew the focus of the second half of the season would be turf.

“He’s got a beautiful stride,” Shirreffs said. “He’s light on his feet and he’s really special to watch.”

Mr. Commons is the only 3-year-old in the Del Mar Mile field and will need a career-best race to win. He faces Caracortado, winner of the Sunshine Millions Turf in January who has placed in three subsequent Grade 1 races; Calimonco, upset winner of the Wickerr Stakes here July 27; and Champ Pegasus, winner of the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Stakes in February who has not started since March.

Santa Rosa stakes winner Our Nautique and Victory Pete, third in the Wickerr, will contribute to the pace.

Caracortado was considered for Sunday’s $1 million Pacific Classic until last week, when trainer and co-owner Mike Machowsky decided that he should keep the 4-year-old gelding on turf.

“This is an option I couldn’t pass up,” Machowsky said. “He’s still got to run the race. Hopefully, we can get a good trip. I don’t see any reason to pass the race.”

Caracortado was a game second to Courageous Cat in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park on July 2, but was only third as the 3-2 favorite in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes behind Pacific Classic hopeful Acclamation on July 23.

The mount of Joe Talamo, the meeting’s leading rider through Wednesday, Caracortado is a threat from off the pace.

“He breaks so well, drops out of it, and makes a run,” Machowsky said. “If he runs his race, he’ll be awful tough.”

Calimonco won his first stakes in the Wickerr, closing from fifth to win by a nose at 20-1. A winner of 4 of 24 starts and $240,466, Calimonco has two older sisters – Sweet Catomine and Life Is Sweet, who won Breeders’ Cup races and are millionaires.

“He ran very well in the Wickerr,” trainer John Sadler said. “He’s had three works since. He’s a beautifully bred horse, and we’re looking forward to this race.”