08/06/2013 3:17PM

Arlington Park: Little Mike will seek Million repeat

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Tom Keyser
Little Mike has not been as sharp this year as in 2012 but his owner expects him to regain his best form in the Arlington Million.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – After working a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.80 this past Saturday on the main track at Churchill Downs, Little Mike is on track for an attempt to do something no horse ever has done: Win the Arlington Million two years in a row.

Little Mike led from start to finish in the 2012 Million, setting a slow pace and powering to a 1 1/2-length victory over Afsare. Two starts earlier, Little Mike had won the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, and two starts later he won the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

But 2013 has not unfolded so kindly for Little Mike – not yet, at least. He, along with stablemate Dullahan, was sent by trainer Dale Romans to Dubai to start his season, and Little Mike ran two subpar races there, finishing eighth of 12 in the Maktoum Challenge Round  3, a race on an all-weather surface, and 11th of 14 when back on turf in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free. The Duty Free performance, while disappointing, should have come as little surprise, since U.S.-based grass horses never have run well in Dubai.

Perhaps slightly more unsettling was Little Mike’s fourth-place finish as the 8-5 favorite in the July 6 United Nations, Little Mike’s first North American start this year. But that’s not how Carlo Vaccarezza, whose wife, Priscilla, owns Little Mike, sees his horse’s most recent performance. Little Mike was forced to duel on a fast pace, Vaccarezza points out. He was beaten only three lengths, and the race should move him forward.

“He’s full of himself now. I think that race really did a lot for him,” Vaccarezza said. “Dale couldn’t be any happier with the horse. He’s put his weight back on; he’s phenomenal. I think he’s at the peak of his career.”

Joel Rosario, who rode Little Mike for the first time in the United Nations, has a return call for the Million, according to Vaccarezza.

Along with Little Mike, there are five U.S.-based runners whose Million participation seems likely: Indy Point, Nates Mineshaft, Rahystrada, Real Solution, and Temeraine. The overseas contingent deemed probable shippers for the race includes Grandeur, Guest of Honour, Hunters Light, Mull of Killough, Side Glance, and The Apache. Grandeur spent about three months in California late last year, winning the Hollywood Turf Cup and the Twilight Derby, and finishing second in the Hollywood Derby. Side Glance would be making his second trip to North America, having finished fourth in the 2011 Woodbine Mile. The Apache, a South African-bred, finished a good second in the Dubai Duty Free this spring.

Beverly D.: Euros well-represented

When I’m A Dreamer won the 2012 Beverly D., it marked the first win since 2004 for an overseas shipper, but despite the formidable presence this year of U.S.-based Marketing Mix and Stephanie’s Kitten, Europeans will have a decent chance to make it two straight in the $750,000 race for females.

At least three horses are expected to ship overseas for the Beverly D.: Dank, Duntle, and Gifted Girl. Duntle, a winner in five of her nine starts and a filly who had been seriously considered for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf last fall, is the most accomplished of the group. Duntle, a 4-year-old owned by the Niarchos family, was disqualified from a first-place finish in the Group 1 Matron Stakes last season and most recently finished second to high-class Elusive Kate in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild.

Dank would be a rare Arlington runner for trainer Michael Stout. The 4-year-old filly has yet to contest a Group 1 race, but has come along nicely this season and probably ran a career-best when winning the Group 2 Kilboy Estate on July 21 at The Curragh.

Gifted Girl would be considered the lightweight among the trio, but she is not without a chance, either. Gifted Girl, trained by Paul Cole, has progressed rapidly this season and was flattered last weekend in England when Thistle Bird, who beat Gifted Girl by less than a length in a Group 3 race this past May, nearly won the Group 1 Nassau Stakes.

* Of a far less internationally significant scale is Thursday’s featured fourth race, a second-level, six-furlong Polytrack allowance race also open to $40,000 claimers. The race drew a field of six, with Sir Applesolutely, bred and owned by Arlington chairman Dick Duchossois’s Hill ’n Dale Farm, probably the one to beat.

* Jockey Jesse Lantz suffered serious injury to his back when Mein Fance fell in deep stretch of Sunday’s second race, a turf sprint. Lantz, according to agent Joe Gun, underwent surgery Sunday to fuse two vertebrae. He reportedly was released from the hospital Monday.

* Jockey Tim Thornton was named to ride Scot’s Sunnyriver in Friday’s ninth race, which would be Thornton’s first mount since he was injured in a spill at Canterbury Park on June 13. Thornton fractured his skull, broke the humerus bone in his upper arm, and suffered a mild concussion. He recently began working horses in preparation for his return.

John Nicoletti More than 1 year ago
Never fully agreed with sending a nice turf horse to Dubai. The travelling alone, is stressful to the horse, and getting acclimated to the water, feed,and a new enviorenment , is also added stress. We have so many great races with a purse structure second to none, is enough reason to stay home.
Walter More than 1 year ago
Welcome back Tim Thornton. And best wishes to Jesse Lantz, may you make a full & speedy recovery!
Forego137 More than 1 year ago
Why would a comment that is written here be removed, if it was profanity laced understandable, or was it too long???? just don't understand why comment is gone it was very insightful for all Handicappers on these up coming races and provided a betting edge for all those out there seeking to make $$$$$$$$ If there is a limit then specify so as not to waste the writers time and he can make his comment shorter........ NOW READ THIS
Sol Rivera More than 1 year ago
Nates Mineshaft , up and comer will continue to improve. Inside post will only add to the appeal.
EnthusiastOfAll More than 1 year ago
Still think this is a very odd spot for Nate's Mineshaft. He's never gone further than 9f and just switched to turf, and he's faded multiple times even at that distance. I'm glad he's in here, because it's a great opportunity to bet against Little Mike (again), but I'd be shocked to see him anywhere near the board against this group.
Forego137 More than 1 year ago
IMO Indy Point made his stateside debut for Richard Mandella with G Steven's in the irons and what a debut it was, he looks to have a bright future and I for one will be rooting for Indy Point to take the Million, besides Stevens is owed one and since coming out of retirement he has been making up for lost time and he is very high on this one. Little Mike got lucky in alot of those races where he caught the field napping and were lacking speed horses, not this year the jig is up and he is not allowed to walk his race's and the result is as stands, he's up the track and gasping for air because he was made to run, sorry but Little Mike is going to have to be the best he has ever been to repeat and I say not likely. Marketing Mix the best Female Turf horse in the country and the sure winner of the Beverly D, ship in all you want she is too tuff this year......
nick More than 1 year ago
Let's see, last year's Woodford Reserve was on a Turf course that was not very kind to front speed, and some horse in it went wire to wire. Then that horse won the second most prestigious turf race in the country. Then that horse did something he had never done before in a significant race, race while not on the lead. All he did was at least tie, if not break the track record in winning the most PRESTIGIOUS turf race in the U. S.(we'll never know because of the timing method difference). Lucky? I guess today I lost a little bit of respect for you, 137. Reading your posts previously I had thought that you knew something about horse racing. He may not win the Million this year(possibly because trips to Dubai destroys race horses), but last year Little Mike was a MONSTER.
Perl More than 1 year ago
He's a bet-against in the Million. No more Ramon to coax the horse beautifully along. Also, he caught them napping last year. Won't happen again.
RockaFelter21 More than 1 year ago
he is an EASY bet against in this race....should be at least 10-1 but he will be 5-2 and hove ZERO shot
Big Bob More than 1 year ago
Well at least he is in the premier American turf race. You know who's only value is on the track to make his owner money, but really has ZERO shot to win because he is not in the race, even though he is the premier turf horse in the country.? ya i think you know.
nick More than 1 year ago
Mr. Rockafelter21, If you would like to open a mutual window and offer 10-1 on Little Mike in the Millon, please let me know when and where you will be.
robert More than 1 year ago
Let's hope Sir Michael Stoute (note correct spelling) sends over Dank. If jockey Ryan Moore ships over as well, look out.
B More than 1 year ago
Before it disappears, read James Scully's commentary on Wise Dan in today's Handicapper's Edge. I couldn't agree with an article more.
B More than 1 year ago
Good Luck! He'll need it. I think this horse got real lucky last year and peaked at the right time. I don't expect a repeat. Oh where, oh where is Wise Dan? Oh yeah. He's doing his Grade 2 thing in NY again. Point of Entry's injury is very painful right now.
RockaFelter21 More than 1 year ago
wrong on Wise Dan....he is a gelding period..he is running with 129lbs and 600k purse...he has zero value except on the track..he is here to run for YOUR PLEASEURE AND WHERE YOU WANT HIM TO RUN...they can make a killing off him if they keep doing what they are doing...he has NOTHING else to prove...so your wise dan garbge is lame and boring..go buy your own horse and see how easy it is to make a profit you clown
Sol Rivera More than 1 year ago
Ouch!!! That was harsh.
Big Bob More than 1 year ago
I'm a little agitated today and this post didn't help. Look, I have no problem with anyone being a fan of any horse out there. However, if you are going to defend any horse please get your facts straight. You say he is running for a purse of 600K. No, the Fourstardave has a purse of 500K. It just hurts your argument that he has zero value except on the track, when there are two Turf races (and don't forget some have claimed he can win at any track, any surface, and his trainer has claimed "he could run all day") a week later worth 100K more and 500K more. No more claims that he is versatile. Maybe he is, but the owner won't allow it.
B More than 1 year ago
He has a LOT to prove and you have a lot to learn, such as manners.
Mandy Garrett More than 1 year ago
I really want to play little mike,he his training really well. but Nates Mineshaft is going to make it very tough for him