10/02/2012 12:50PM

Santa Anita: Brice Blanc rewarded with mount on Mr. Commons in Arroyo Seco - and perhaps Breeders' Cup Mile

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Mr. Commons finished second in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile under Brice Blanc, who will ride him in the Arroyo Seco Mile on Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. –The drive from Del Mar to Hollywood Park covers about 110 miles and takes less than two hours – if a person leaves early and beats the notorious Los Angeles area traffic.

Jockey Brice Blanc knew the road well in August. He made the drive three times to work the turf miler Mr. Commons for trainer John Shirreffs.

Blanc would rise early, travel to Hollywood Park and return to Del Mar in time for afternoon races. All of that for about a minute’s worth of work.

“It was a good minute,” Blanc said last weekend.

The commitment has paid dividends. Blanc rode Mr. Commons to a second in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile on Aug. 26 as a replacement rider for Mike Smith, who was at Saratoga that day. When Mr. Commons runs in Saturday’s $150,000 Arroyo Seco Mile at Santa Anita, Blanc will have the mount.

His commitment to work Mr. Commons in August so impressed owner Ian Banwell and Shirreffs that they have stuck with the 39-year-old journeyman.

“He came up three weeks in a row to work the horse,” Shirreffs said.

“There are not many jockeys that would come up and we really appreciated it.”

For Blanc, gaining the mount on Mr. Commons puts him closer to reaching a career goal. Mr. Commons is a candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, a race that Blanc considers a highlight each year. It is a race he has never ridden.

“The Breeders’ Cup Mile has been my dream,” he said. “It’d be awesome to win such a race. Since I was a kid, it’s been one of the most favorite races of the Breeders’ Cup. It’s a world cup race with the European horses.”

A native of France and still a citizen of that country, Blanc has been based in Southern California for most of his career. While he has never won a riding title, he has maintained a reputation for excelling with closers, especially turf runners. That is the style of Mr. Commons.

“Maybe I get that because I can get a lot of horses to relax and people want me to ride horses that need to settle,” Blanc said.

Over the years, Blanc has won Grade 1 stakes such as the 1999 Matriarch and 2001 Gamely Stakes on Happyanunoit, who was trained by the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel; the 2003 San Juan Capistrano Handicap on Passinetti; and the 2007 Del Mar Debutante on Set Play.

He has won the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap for females on turf at Santa Anita the last two years.

Blanc has worked with top stables before. He worked with the late Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham and with the late Rodney Rash as an apprentice in the early 1990s.

“Working for Rodney and Charlie, they were great to start with,” he said. “Charlie was a good mentor and a great trainer. It’s nice to be near greatness.”

Mr. Commons, 4, was fifth in the 2011 BC Mile at Churchill Downs under Smith. He won two Grade 2 stakes early in the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting – the Sir Beaufort and Arcadia Stakes – but has lost his last four starts. In the Del Mar Mile, Mr. Commons closed from last in the field of six to finish a nose behind Obviously, who set a track record of 1:32.10 and is expected to run in the Arroyo Seco Mile.

“It was a tough beat,” Blanc said.

The experience should help Blanc in the Arroyo Seco Mile and again in the BC Mile, Shirreffs said.

“For me, he looks like a rider who is in rhythm with the horse,” Shirreffs said. “They seem like one.”

richard montgomery More than 1 year ago
Naw, its the draft horse derby.Final times around 3 /2 minutes.
John More than 1 year ago
I always handicap the turf races with the jockey being my final devisor, who's on whom ! I have always embraced Gomez, Espinoza and Blanc, they seem to find the seems more often than not ! Guiding 2000 pounds of muscle is not a easy job, I adire these guys 110% although I do use the profanity when they get blocked or ..............................good luck to Brice, bring on the Breeders Cup !
Steve Hanna More than 1 year ago
Two thousand pounds of muscle? What is he doing, ridding two horses at once?
John Smith More than 1 year ago
no...he is riding a 1,200 pound animal and he weighs 800 pounds himself. He went out for a big juicy steak last night. Jockeys deserve to eat a good meal once in a while.
Paolo Sanchez More than 1 year ago
Brice seems like a good guy and I love Mr. Commons, I hope they win the BC, but I personally think he isn't that good of a rider and actually gets more credit than he should. I personally, bash me if you want, its my opinion. have seen him misjudge paces, get into traffic trouble, etc. on more than capable horses a lot. but best wishes to him because I am rooting for the nice guy and I love Mr. Commons
Dawood K More than 1 year ago
If Brice Blanc had more opportunities to ride on turf, he would be the second best rider to the legendary turf rider " Toro "
AZ Wildcat More than 1 year ago
This was a good move by Shirreffs, Blanc has always been an underrated turf rider. Would love to see him win the BC Mile ands it is stacking up as the toughest of the BC races, and adding Animal Kingdom to the mix makes it even tougher. Good luck to you Brice!
John Smith More than 1 year ago
Adding Animal Kingdom to the mix makes it tougher??? How does a horse that will break last and finish last make a race tougher?
Pale Rider More than 1 year ago
Wonder if Mike Smith is upset? Most jocks don't like to be taken off of a mount. Let's see what develops?
David Ibarra More than 1 year ago
I can always appreciate a good hard working person. Brice is just that, deserves to get a ride on a very capable horse. congrats Brice, nice guy!
Donna Keen More than 1 year ago
Brice is a great guy. We ride him every chance we get. He is totally under rated because he is a 'nice' guy, but on the track he rides as hard and smart as any of them!!
Mike More than 1 year ago
One for the good guys!
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
Congratulations, Brice. Dreams often do come true. It's nice to see you were rewarded for your initiative. Good luck! BTW - That is a beautiful picture, above, of Mr. Commons. Love the expression in his eyes, the glow of his coat, and the buoyancy of his mane. Beautiful picture, very handsome horse.