Updated on 08/21/2012 2:56PM

Arlington: Arlington Million winner Little Mike candidate for two Breeders' Cup races

Four-Footed Fotos
Trainer Dale Romans must decide whether to point Little Mike to the Breeders' Cup Mile or see if he can stretch his speed to 1 1/2 miles for the B.C. Turf.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Trainer Dale Romans was back at Saratoga just a few hours after winning the Arlington Million for the first time Saturday. Romans was among those on a charter flight that transported a number of horsemen, including jockey Ramon Dominguez, who gave Little Mike a perfect ride in leading every step of the 30th Million at Arlington Park.

“We all went straight to the airport and were back at a decent hour,” Romans said Sunday morning by phone.

Little Mike, the co-second choice at 7-2, was never seriously threatened in winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Afsare. Another 1 1/2 lengths back, it was very tight: Rahystrada and Colombian dead-heated for third, with Crackerjack King finishing just a nose behind them in fifth in the field of 11.

Little Mike also was out of here Saturday night. The Million winner arrived in the wee hours of the morning at his main Churchill Downs base, a six-hour van ride away in Louisville, Ky., along with the three horses that Romans ran in the Secretariat Stakes: Finnegans Wake (second), favored Silver Max (fifth), and Cozzetti (sixth).

“It’s funny, but if you’d had to say beforehand, which race do you think you’ll win, you would’ve had to say the Secretariat because I had three of the eight in the field,” said Romans, the 46-year-old Louisville-born trainer who added the Million to a growing resume of wins that also includes such major races as the Dubai World Cup, Preakness, and two Breeders’ Cup races. “But that’s the way this game works.”

With Little Mike having shown an ability to get 1 1/4 miles, Romans now faces a dilemma. Should he point Little Mike to the Breeders’ Cup Mile or the Breeders’ Cup Turf at 1 1/2 miles?

“I have no idea,” he said. “Carlo and I will have to talk about it.”

Little Mike is named for the 10-year-old son of Carlo and Priscilla Vaccarezza, the breeders and owners of the 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding. Priscilla Vaccarezza was born in nearby Carol Stream and grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, yet had never been to the races at Arlington Park before Saturday. She will attend her 30th reunion at Glenbard North High School in a few weeks, “and she’s got an unbelievable story to tell, doesn’t she?” laughed her husband, Carlo, who owns and operates two popular South Florida restaurants, Damiano’s in Boca Raton and Frank and Dino’s in Deerfield Beach.

Meanwhile, a sizable contingent of European runners was booked on a flight out of O’Hare International Airport that would take them to Amsterdam. From there the group was to split up and head to their final destinations. Eventually bound for London were the American St. Leger winner, Jakkalberry, Afsare, and I’m a Dreamer. I'm a Dreamer dug down for a narrow victory in the Beverly D. over Marketing Mix, making Hayley Turner the first woman jockey to ride a winner in the International Festival of Racing.

“Everything’s very well this morning,” Ian Russell, assistant to trainer David Simcock, said early Sunday. “All the English horses are going back home together. It’s been a very long week, very enjoyable, though.”

Like the 29-year-old Turner, who won her first two Group 1 races last year in her homeland of England, Simcock, 39, also is an emerging star on the British racing circuit. Based at Newmarket, he began his career in 2004 and trained the 2010 European champion sprinter, Dream Ahead, a winner of five Group 1 races over two seasons.

I’m a Dreamer, a 5-year-old mare, has raced 14 times, twice in North America, and both of those races have been outstanding. She was beaten just a head last fall in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine.

Bayrir, the Secretariat winner for the Aga Khan and trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre, was on the Sunday flight to Amsterdam before continuing on to Paris, according to officials with the International Racing Bureau.

Meanwhile, the IRB said Crackerjack King, who was the lukewarm 7-2 favorite in the Million, likely will make his next start in the prestigious Cox Plate in Australia, while Afsare will be considered for that Oct. 27 race, too.

Ontrack attendance Saturday was 34,002, the largest crowd since the new facility opened in 1989 and fourth-highest in the 30 runnings of the Million. Arlington reported Sunday afternoon that all-sources handle of $14,785,748 on the 12-race Saturday card was up 14 percent over the 2011 Million program. In addition, ontrack handle of nearly $2.9 million was up 13 percent over last year.

Beyer Speed Figures earned by the Festival race winners were 102 for Little Mike, 97 for I’m a Dreamer, 90 for Bayrir, and 97 for Jakkleberry.