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Updated on 08/21/2012 2:56PM
Arlington Park: Little Mike leads every step to take the Million at 7-2
By Marcus Hersh
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Turns out Little Mike can go 1 1/4 miles – at least when he gets away with murder on the lead.
Setting a glacial pace in the Arlington Million, Little Mike opened up an insurmountable lead coming into the homestretch and had plenty left to hold clear a late challenge from Afsare, denying European invaders a sweep of the four major stakes here at Arlington on Saturday and providing trainer Dale Romans with the first Arlington Million of his career.
The story of the Million was pace, or the lack of it. Little Mike bounced straight to the front and set fractions of 25.10 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 49.95 for the first half, and a sleepy 1:15.03 for his first six furlongs.
“I thought he’d make an easy lead – maybe not that easy,” Romans said. “Three-quarters in 1:15, he was going to be going to be tough to beat.”
Ahead by 4 1/2 lengths at the stretch call, Little Mike won by 1 1/2 lengths, with Afsare bridging the gap late after rallying three wide into the stretch.
Ramon Dominguez won the second Arlington Million of his career, piloting Little Mike only after his regular jockey, Joe Bravo, elected to ride Turbo Compressor in the Sword Dancer on Saturday at Saratoga, a race in which he finished last. Dominguez said that because Little Mike raced on the bridle he couldn’t tell quite how slow he was going, but noting the pricked ears of his mount, Dominguez felt confident.
“At the three-eighths pole I thought we’d done as much as we could to slow them down,” Dominguez said. “He really accelerated, and he galloped out like a freight train.”
Little Mike was timed in 2:02.44 for 1 1/4 miles on good turf. Heavily bet from the start of wagering, he paid $9.80 to win as the co-7-2 second choice with Boisterous. Afsare was 1 1/2 lengths better than Colombian and Rahystrada, who finished in a dead heat for third. They were followed by the slight favorite Crackerjack King, Treasure Beach, Wigmore Hall, Willcox Inn, Boisterous, Cherokee Lord, and Vertiformer. Europeans held down the second through sixth spots after winning the American St. Leger, Secretariat, and Beverly D. earlier Saturday.
Little Mike, a son of Spanish Steps and out of the Illinois-bred mare Hay Jude, was bred by Carlo Vaccarezza and is owned by Priscilla Vaccarezza. He won for the 11th time in 19 starts, and despite looking more like a miler for much of his career, now is 3 for 3 (with two Grade 1 wins) in races at 1 1/8 miles or greater. Romans said he would have to think about whether to continue to race Little Mike in longer-distance races. The Arlington Million is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, earning Little Mike an automatic, fees-paid berth into that race.
“The next step would have to be a mile and a half,” Romans said. “We’ll have to sit down and think about it.”
Afsare performed best of the Europeans despite throwing a fit behind the gate, delaying the start of the Million for several minutes.
“We went to the gate with him yesterday and he wasn’t fully straightforward, but he wasn’t straightforward at all today,” said trainer Luca Cumani’s wife, Sara Cumani, who oversaw Afsare’s preparations here. “This was the worst he’s ever been, but he’s a tough customer. We had a perfect draw to be galloping right behind the leader, but for some reason we were too gar back. He ran a great race.”
Colombian showed decent speed and was close enough to the pace to make an impact, but he could not quicken with the winner. Rahystrada continued his run of good Million performances, his tie for third bettering fourth and fifth-place finishes the last two years. Crackerjack King’s connections traveled here looking for firmer going than they found, though the Million favorite was beaten just a nose for third.
Meanwhile, on a picture perfect August afternoon, a crowd of 34,002 cheered like crazy as Dominguez and Little Mike put the 30th Arlington Million to sleep.
He's got talent and sure he may not be as you said in the same planet GO GO (Garrett Gomez) but actually I'd take Ramon over him. But the only rider I'd take over him is John Velazquez. After Johnny V., I'd Ramon over anyone. I think he's a great rider overall and really brings it. You can count on him in the cheap races but eventually as he gets older and loses interest in riding cheap horses who knows what's gonna happen but what if he still will ride cheap horses at the end of his career like Russell Baze (who's still riding cheap horses at his age up in Northern California) and Laffit Pincay Jr. He will be IMO a future Hall of Famer.
Ramon Dominguez rode amazingly on Little Mike. rides alot of cheap horses. Even at the NYRA tracks he still does. When he was riding in Maryland and Delaware, he was riding those types. The only time IMO that Ramon put in mediocre rides was on Gio Ponti. Ramon has 2 Eclipse Awards and last year's even though his earnings were over 20 million I still question last year's because Johnny V. deserved that award. But won't talk about it for now. This is Just Ramon were talking about.
I have to agree that this horse was able to steal this race right from under the noses of the other jocks.then again this was a poor poor field,im not surprised leparoux did not put rahystrada into the race early he been leting ramon get away with easy leads all season at saratoga.
What a terrible ride Leparoux gave Rahystrada. Blech.
for that horse not to be challenged at the top of the stretch with thoes snail like fractions in a "Gr 1" race like this is absolutely mind boggling!!! cant take nothing away from Ramon though. im sure he wouldnt mind running with such great "Gr 1" competion for the rest of his career!!
Willcox Inn was a huge disappointment
how is 50 for the half a slow pace ? the track was rated "good" and the race is run at 10 furlongs. frankel's last race was run in 53 seconds for the first half of an 8 furlong race. mikey ran against the closers bias.
still hard to believe he got away with such an easy pace....with such a good horse...what was everyone thinking...thats racing for us tho
The interesting and sad sideline is that the sire, Spanish Steps, was to have been the pillar of a Florida breeding establishment that collapsed with the eerily similar to 1929 debacle that was 2008. All the properties of that unlucky farm were liquidated for pennies on the dollar and Spanish Steps himself ended up Nowheresville USA. One guy got killed and burried 27 feet deep (the knowledgeable guy who was banking on the horse to become a great sire) and a lucky gambler who bought him for peanut butter now has gold in his farm. Such are the sad turn of events that befall unlucky sages while "luckies" prosper with or without brainpower.
How was Ramon's ride on Aruna? You bunch of dopes!!
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