05/27/2012 3:23PM

Hollywood Park: Wilkinson, Mr. Commons will meet again in Shoemaker Mile

Benoit & Associates
Wilkinson (left), being chased home by favored Mr. Commons (right) will have a rematch in the June 30 Shoemaker Mile.

Wilkinson and Mr. Commons, the first two finishers in Saturday’s $150,000 American Handicap, will have a rematch for a much larger prize in the $300,000 Shoemaker Mile at Betfair Hollywood Park on June 30.

Wilkinson will have a chance to prove his 44-1 upset in the American Handicap was not a fluke, while Mr. Commons will attempt to end a two-race losing streak.

In the American, Wilkinson had an ideal trip stalking the pace, took the lead in the stretch and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Mr. Commons, the3-5 favorite. The victory came less than a week after Wilkinson arrived in Southern California from trainer Neil Howard’s stable at Churchill Downs.

New trainer Jeff Mullins discussed Wilkinson’s background with Howard and owner E.K. Gaylord in the days before the race. Howard “told me he was pretty straightforward,” Mullins said.

Wilkinson arrived in Southern California on May 20 and was galloped  from Monday through Friday. His training schedule in the build-up to the American Handicap was not extensive, Mullins said.

“We stood him in the gate a little bit,” Mullins said.

In conversations with Gaylord, Mullins learned that Wilkinson prefers to race near the lead. The advice affected the way that Mullins coached jockey Martin Pedroza before the Grade 2 American Handicap. Mullins urged Pedroza to stay near the front. Pedroza had intended to be farther back in the first half of the race and make one run.

“When I came out to get the instructions, everything changed,” Pedroza said. “He told me to send him leaving there and sit behind the first flight.

“I just fell right into a perfect trip. If I had done what I wanted to do, sit and make one run, I probably wouldn’t have won.”

Mr. Commons made one run, which saw him close from eighth in a field of nine to finish second. He was nine lengths behind the leaders after a half-mile, and fifth, trailing then leader Liberian Freighter by five lengths, with a quarter-mile remaining.

Trainer John Shirreffs would have preferred that Mr. Commons had been closer to the pace under jockey Mike Smith.

“Nine lengths back on this turf course, you might as well forget it,” Shirreffs said.

In his last four starts – wins in the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort and Arcadia Stakes and a close second in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile in March – Mr. Commons has run a mile on turf in times faster than 1:34.

“How many horses run as consistent as Mr. Commons?” Shirreffs said. “In his last three races, he’s run 33 and change.”