03/03/2012 8:49PM

Santa Anita: Ex-claimer Willyconker outfinishes Mr. Commons in Kilroe

Shigeki Kikkawa
Willyconker, ridden by Joel Rosario, reaches the wire a neck ahead of heavily favored Mr. Commons.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Willyconker, claimed last summer for $40,000 and risked by his current connections for $25,000 in October, completed his improbable rise from claimer to stakes winner by scoring an upset victory over highly regarded Mr. Commons in the Grade 1, $300,000 Kilroe Mile on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Willyconker ($23.20) outfinished Mr. Commons, the 4-5 favorite, by a neck through a furious final quarter-mile in 23.26 seconds. It was another length back to Compari in third, with Jeranimo fourth.

Willyconker completed one mile on firm turf in 1:33.88.

The win was the seventh in 20 starts for Willyconker, who has four wins and two seconds in his last six starts. He was second to Mr. Commons in the Arcadia Stakes on Feb. 4 when in receipt of five pounds. The spread was merely two pounds (120-118) this time.

Mike Smith, who rode Mr. Commons, thought Mr. Commons was simply outfinished.

“He ran great. I’m not going to make any excuses. He had an eighth of a mile to get by him,” Smith said.

Smith said he went to a hand ride in the final yards because Mr. Commons did not respond to being hit with the stick.

“He’s got a better kick than that,” Smith said.

Willyconker, a gelding, was claimed by trainer Doug O’Neill for a partnership that includes David Kenney, Mike Viele, and Marty Gardner, 94, the uncle of Steve Rothblum, a former trainer who is now a bloodstock agent.

“His first stakes winner, and he does it in a Grade 1,” Rothblum said.

Willyconker, 5, earned $180,000 for the Kilroe victory. He has made approximately $250,000 since being claimed.