04/29/2011 7:51AM

Kentucky Derby: Mr. Commons works, just in case

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Mr. Commons, third in the Santa Anita Derby and all but ruled out of the Kentucky Derby due to insufficient graded stakes earnings, would have worked shorter than seven furlongs Thursday at Hollywood Park. But when Churchill Downs officials phoned trainer John Shirreffs earlier that morning to inquire about Mr. Commons’s status, Shirreffs called an audible.

“I wasn’t planning on going long with him,” Shirreffs said. “But when I heard how close it’s getting, I decided to work him long just on the off chance [he gets in].”

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With graded earnings of $120,000 from four starts, Mr. Commons as of midweek was 24th on the earnings list, but at least two ranked in front of him are not considered possible starters. That would push Mr. Commons to 22nd on the list; 20 can start.

“It seemed like an impossible situation, but this week there have been lots of changes,” Shirreffs said. “We haven’t closed the door on [a Derby start].”

On a warm, clear Hollywood morning at 9 a.m., Mr. Commons and jockey Mike Smith worked seven furlongs on Cushion Track in 1:25.20. Mr. Commons broke off about four lengths behind a workmate, caught that one halfway through the workout, pulled clear on the turn, and ran away through the lane.

According to Hollywood clocker and morning line maker Russ Hudak, Mr. Commons’s fractional times were as follows: 24.40 seconds, 36.40, 48.20, 1:00.40, and 1:25.20.

The 2-for-4 Mr. Commons is dappled out, looks good physically, and remains under consideration, for now at least, for one of the first two Triple Crown races.

“If he goes back, it will be for the Derby or the Preakness,” Shirreffs said. “If not, I’ll keep him here and run on grass.”

If Mr. Commons draws into the field, he might need a rider. Mike Smith is scheduled to ride Blue Grass runner-up Twinspired in the Derby.

◗ Anthony’s Cross, the Hollywood-based colt currently ranked 21st on the Derby earnings list, will work five furlongs on Sunday, trainer Eoin Harty said. If it appears he will get into the field, he would ship on Tuesday.