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Midnight Interlude inherits favorite role

DEL MAR, Calif. -- The absence of Mr. Commons from Saturday's $150,000 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar because of a bruised foot will make Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude the favorite in the turf race over 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds.

Mr. Commons won the Oceanside Stakes on July 20, his first stakes win, but has battled a sore foot in recent days, trainer John Shirreffs said. Mr. Commons had a workout on the synthetic Polytrack surface on Monday. By Wednesday, Shirreffs said he was not sufficiently satisfied with the condition of the foot to enter Mr. Commons after watching the colt jog and gallop.

"Every once in a while, when he was jogging, he was sensitive on it," Shirreffs said.

Owned by Ian Banwell, Mr. Commons has won 3 of 6 starts and $253,660. Earlier this year, Mr. Commons was third to Midnight Interlude in the Santa Anita Derby and eighth in the Preakness Stakes.

Shirreffs said that the setback is not severe and that Mr. Commons may be able to start in the $250,000 Del Mar Derby over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Sept. 4, a race that the trainer had had as a long-term goal since the Oceanside.

"We'll find another race," he said. "I don't think it's that big of a deal."

Midnight Interlude was 16th in the Kentucky Derby and 13th in the Preakness Stakes. He won his turf debut in the minor Tsunami Slew Stakes over a mile at Hollywood Park on June 17.

The Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap was expected to draw a field of seven, including Burns, the runner-up in the Oceanside.

New syndicate awaits first purchase

Aron Wellman, a former vice-president of the Team Valor syndicate, has formed a new ownership syndicate, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.

The new venture has acquired its first horse, the 2-year-old filly Byrama, who will be trained by Simon Callaghan following her arrival from England later this month. Byrama won a maiden race in her second career start, at Carlisle, on July 24.

Before joining Team Valor in 2008, Wellman, who has a background as an attorney, led a partnership that campaigned the graded stakes winners Three Degrees and Valbenny.

Smith, Sutherland in charity cook-off

Jockey Mike Smith beat former fiancee Chantal Sutherland in a match race last Sunday. There will be a charity rematch of sorts in the kitchen of local chef Jeffrey Strauss this Sunday to benefit the California Retirement Management Account, which provides funding for homes for retired racehorses.

Smith and Sutherland will appear in a paealla cook-off from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $250, with a limit of 100 guests at the private dinner. Further information is available from Lucinda Mandella at (626) 574-6622.