08/20/2012 2:46PM

Arlington Park: Little Mike to use Joe Hirsch Turf Classic to determine Breeders' Cup plans

Four-Footed Fotos
Little Mike, with Ramon Dominguez riding, leads all the way in Saturday’s Grade 1 Arlington Million.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Arlington Million winner Little Mike will be considered for the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Invitational at Belmont Park on Sept. 29 as his final prep for the Breeders’ Cup five weeks later, trainer Dale Romans said, although which Breeders’ Cup event will likely be determined by how the Hirsch unfolds.

The $600,000 Hirsch is run at 1 1/2 miles on turf, which is a quarter-mile farther than the Million and the same as the 1 1/2-mile BC Turf. Still, with all the speed that Little Mike has at his disposal, Romans and Carlo Vaccarezza, who bred and owns the 5-year-old gelding with his wife, Priscilla, are in a quandary about whether the BC Mile might be more suitable.

“I really don’t have a clue,” Romans said Monday. “The Belmont race should really tell us which way to go.”

Point of Entry, the impressive winner of the 1 1/2-mile Sword Dancer on Saturday at Saratoga, also is being pointed to the Hirsch.

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

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 r é sum é 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.”

Little Mike is named for the 10-year-old son of the Vaccarezzas. 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 departed Sunday on a flight out of O’Hare International Airport to Amsterdam. From there, the group was to split up and head to their final destinations. Bound for London were the American St. Leger winner Jakkalberry, Afsare, and I’m a Dreamer. The latter 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.

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 Jakkalberry.

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

Kapitale, the German filly who was fourth in the Beverly D., will remain indefinitely in North America, trainer Andreas Wohler said.

◗ Ontrack attendance Saturday was 34,002, the largest crowd since the Million was revived in 2000 following a two-year hiatus. 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.