08/22/2012 1:46PM

Arlington Park notes: Arlington Million winner’s dam a local success story

Four-Footed Fotos
Arlington Million winner Little Mike isn't Hay Jude's only successful foal. Another, Little Nick, has earned nearly $500,000.

Hay Jude ended a 30-race career for trainer Tom Swearingen with a last-place finish in a $7,500 claiming race at Arlington Park in June 2002. Swearingen, a mainstay of the Illinois racing circuit, already had enough broodmares on his South Elgin, Ill., farm, and all he wanted was for Hay Jude “to have a real good home.”

Carlo Vaccarezza, a friend of Swearingen’s business partner, Pat Greco, “would come out to the farm sometimes, and he took a liking to the mare,” said Swearingen. “So we gave him the mare.”

Long story short: the Illinois-bred Hay Jude, now 17, became the dam of an Arlington Million winner when Little Mike led all the way Saturday to capture the state’s richest and most prestigious race. Bred and owned by Vaccarezza and his wife, Priscilla, Little Mike is a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding by Spanish Steps.

“I think it’s so neat that an Illinois-bred mare had her son come back here to win the Million,” said Swearingen, who celebrated the victory afterward with Vaccarezza and his family and friends. “The mare had sustained an injury when she was real young and never really got a chance to show how good she was,” although she won five races and earned $113,152 for her owner-breeders, the Long Meadow Stables.

Hay Jude, he continued, “had a lot of try to her, a lot of heart. She probably deserved a chance to be a great mare, and she’s done that with her offspring. I’ve talked to Carlo on occasion, and he’s been nothing but gracious about everything. I am really happy that everything’s worked out for him. It’s been wonderful.”

Besides Little Mike, Hay Jude has produced three other foals to race, most notably Little Nick, an earner of nearly $500,000. Little Nick made news last weekend, too, albeit for the wrong reason: He was involved in a training mishap at Saratoga with Jackson Bend, with both horses fortunate to escape serious injury.

Little Mike is named for the Vaccarezzas’ 10-year-old son, while Little Nick is named for their 12-year-old. Both boys were at Arlington for the Million. Hay Jude also produced a 2-year-old filly (by Bustin Stones) named Priscilla Marie, winless in three starts so far for Dale Romans, the trainer of Little Mike.