02/02/2012 2:52PM

Santa Anita: Arcadia favorite Mr. Commons may still be peaking


ARCADIA, Calif. – The reputation of the 4-year-old turf miler Mr. Commons will only grow in coming months, jockey Mike Smith says.

Smith rides Mr. Commons on Saturday when he tries to beat older horses for the first time in the $150,000 Arcadia Stakes over a mile on turf at Santa Anita. The Grade 2 Arcadia is the third race on a 10-race program, and is not part of the pick six.

“The thing that impresses me more is that we still haven’t seen the best from him,” Smith said. “He’s developing, getting stronger, all the good stuff.

“He not nervous, he’s just more comfortable. He used to get hot and that would stir him up. Now, like a good horse does, he thinks he owns the place, which is a good way to have him.”

Smith has ridden Mr. Commons in eight of his 10 races, and in all four of his wins, a span that includes victories in the restricted Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar last summer and the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort Stakes against 3-year-olds over a mile on turf at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

Owned by Ian Banwell and trained by John Shirreffs, Mr. Commons drew the outside post in a field of eight and will be a heavy favorite. Considering he has run best from off the pace, Mr. Commons is likely to stalk the leaders for the first half-mile, lessening any concern of an outside draw.

In the Sir Beaufort, Mr. Commons rallied from seventh in a field of eight and squeezed through a narrow spot in the stretch before Smith hand-rode him to a win by 3 1/4 lengths.

“It was a tight little spot and he dove right through there,” Smith said. “I can point him in any direction I want and he’ll go through it. He might not have done that before. “

Mr. Commons is one of six stakes winners in the Arcadia field. The stakes winners are a diverse group, including Pathfork, a Group 1 winner in Ireland in 2010, and the speedy Dewey’s Special, the winner of the 2009 California Dreamin’ Handicap for California-breds at Del Mar. Dewey’s Special ends a 22-month layoff on Saturday.

Calimonco won the restricted Wickerr Stakes, and finished third in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile last August, a race in which Mr. Commons was second. Calimonco was set to go to stud in California in 2012, but owners Don Cohn and Marty Wygod reversed that decision after a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park in November.

“He ran very well in the Citation and the decision was made to do more,” trainer John Sadler said.

Calimonco was entered in the Daytona Stakes on Jan. 8, but Sadler opted to stay away from such established turf sprinters such as Caracortado, Mr Gruff, and Regally Ready.

“This is a good place to start off,” Sadler said. “He’s ready to go. He had a nice work the other day on the grass.”