MIKE SMITH, MR. COMMONS, WINNER: “He’s just incredible. Like I said before, he makes me feel like a kid again. When I ride him he gives me a whole lot of guts because I believe in him so much. I know that he’s going to go anywhere I ask him to go, and he does it with extreme acceleration. He just makes my job really easy.”

In regards to the inquiry: “I didn’t feel I bothered anybody because I accelerated so quickly. I think Corey (Nakatani) thought I was going to interfere with him but I accelerated so fast I got out of his way before there could be any trouble. I wanted to get in the pocket, and I was a little bit worried about getting inside of M One Rifle because it was his first time on the grass. Going a mile, I thought if he didn’t kick on, which he didn’t, around the turn then I might get stuck in behind him.
“I had already committed myself at that point, so I didn’t want to make the race any harder on my horse than it had to be. He loves to be in the pocket, so I took the chance. Like I said, I have so much confidence he’ll go wherever I point him, and he did. He went through another tight hole again and did it with a lot of courage.”

RAFAEL BEJARANO, WILLYCONKER, SECOND: “He tried really hard. He can do anything he wants. I didn’t think I had a chance to hold off the eight (Mr. Commons). My horse had all the opportunity to win the race just the eight was the best.”


JOHN SHIRREFFS, MR. COMMONS, WINNER: Asked how he felt when the horse was saving ground down the backside: “I have a lot of confidence in Mike (Smith). He knows the horse so well, that he’s just waiting for an opening.”
Asked if he was concerned when Willyconker made a run outside of Mr. Commons in the stretch: “Not really . . . Obviously, that’s what we’re hoping (that he runs in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Nov. 2 and 3). Last year he was a little immature and had a little trouble in the race (finishing fifth in the BC Mile on Nov. 5). Now he’s handling tight spots very well . . . There’s so much difference between him now and when he ran in the Santa Anita Derby (third last April 9), you cannot imagine. Totally different. Experience is a great teacher.”
Asked if the Grade I, $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf March 3 would be next: “I don’t know. We’ll see. Hopefully we can make that race. It’s hard to say right away.”

NOTES: The winning owner is Ian Banwell of Versailles, Ky., who races as St. George Farm Racing, LLC.