05/26/2012 7:25PM

Hollywood Park: Mullins tips hat to Howard after Wilkinson's huge upset in American Handicap

Benoit & Associates
Wilkinson, ridden by Martin Pedroza, pays $90.60 to win for his upset in the American Handicap.

INGLEWOOD, Calif.- Wilkinson, the latest addition to trainer Jeff Mullins’s stable, was the shocking winner of Saturday’s $150,000 American Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Wilkinson ($90.60) arrived at Hollywood Park last week from trainer Neil Howard’s stable at Churchill Downs and won the second stakes of his career in the Grade 2 American Handicap. Mullins credited Howard with the victory after leaving the winner’s circle.

“We just galloped him five days and ran him,” Mullins said. “We’ve got to give all the credit to Neil Howard.”

Ridden by Martin Pedroza, Wilkinson had an ideal trip in the one-mile turf race, stalking pacesetters Liberian Freighter and Compari before taking the lead in early stretch. The third longest shot in a field of nine, Wilkinson held off a late threat from 3-5 favorite Mr. Commons to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:33.37.

Liberian Freighter held third, finishing a half-length behind Mr. Commons. Compari was fourth, followed by Mobilized, Tigah, Calimonco, Great Warrior, and Soul Candy.

The American Handicap was the first start for Mr. Commons since a second in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March. He broke from the outside post and was eighth in the first quarter-mile.

Mr. Commons was fifth with a quarter-mile remaining.

“He ran well from the” outside, jockey Mike Smith said. “I would have liked to have won. He’ll get a lot out of this and move forward.”

Wilkinson, owned by E.K. Gaylord II, won the 2011 Lecomte Stakes and was sixth in the Louisiana Derby and 10th in the Blue Grass Stakes. He did not start in the 2011 Triple Crown.

Switched to turf last summer, Wilkinson was second and third in graded stakes on that surface last fall, including a third in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park.

A 4-year-old colt by Lemon Drop Kid, Wilkinson has won 5 of 18 starts and $336,994. Mullins has a history with the colt’s family, having trained Wilkinson’s dam, Tasha’s Delight. In 2005 and 2006, Tasha’s Delight was second or third in five stakes.

“I trained the mare and she was a trier,” Mullins said.

The same can be said about Wilkinson.