11/03/2012 6:31PM

Breeders' Cup Turf: Little Mike continues to defy expectations

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Tom Keyser
Little Mike holds off Point of Entry to upset the Breeders' Cup Turf.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Every label placed on Little Mike in the last year is proving to be wrong.

At one point, he was thought to be a miler. Then in August, he won the Arlington Million over 1 1/4 miles.

Going into Saturday’s $2,727,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita, Little Mike was expected to take his customary position on the lead. When he settled in third in the first mile of the race over 1 1/2 miles, jockey Ramon Dominguez thought his mount was comfortable, but still had concern about how the race was unfolding.

“We didn’t know how he’d react,” he said.

Little Mike was on the verge of a brilliant performance.

Winning for the first time over 1 1/2 miles, Little Mike won the richest turf race in the United States in the Grade 1 BC Turf, holding off a late threat from 2-1 favorite Point of Entry to win by a half-length.

St Nicholas Abbey, who won the 2011 BC Turf, finished third.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Saturday results and video replays]

Little Mike ($36.60) was timed in a quick 2:22.83. A 5-year-old gelding, he races for owner Priscilla Vaccarezza and is trained by Dale Romans. Little Mike was bred by Priscilla’s husband, Carlo.

The time may have been a course record. Hawkster holds the mark of 2:22.80 set in 1989, but the track did not time races to the hundredths of a second at that time.

What is certain is that Little Mike deserves to be considered for the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding turf horse of 2012 along with BC Mile winner Wise Dan. The BC Turf was Little Mike's fourth stakes win of the year and third in a Grade 1 stakes. He won the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs in May, the race before the Kentucky Derby that day.

Saturday, Little Mike was ignored in the betting for the BC Turf, with much of the focus on Point of Entry and St Nicholas Abbey, the 3-1 second choice.

At the start, Turbo Compressor took the lead and set a quick pace of 22.83 and 46.77 seconds. Little Mike trailed by 3 1/2 lengths after a half-mile and by 1 1/2 lengths after a mile.

On the turn, Trailblazer, an import from Japan, made an imposing move with a wide rally to reach contention. As soon as it appeared that Trailblazer could reach the front, Little Mike, who was racing toward the inside, pulled clear. He led by 1 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole and held off the late challenges.

“Little Mike is unique,” Carlo Vaccarezza said. “He’s fast, but he has a lot of stamina.”

Dominguez said that Little Mike gave him the response he expected in the stretch.

“He really took off in the last part,” he said.

Point of Entry, who had won his previous five starts, four in stakes, finished three-quarters of a length in front of St Nicholas Abbey. Point of Entry was on the inside throughout the race and was as far back as ninth in the field of 12.

“He came running,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “He might have been a little farther back than I thought he would be. I’m not disappointed in the effort. I’m disappointed in the finish.”

St Nicholas Abbey was followed by Trailblazer, Shareta, Kindergarden Kid, Cogito, Slim Shadey, Dullahan, Treasure Beach, Optimizer, and Turbo Compressor.

The BC Turf was St Nicholas Abbey’s first start since an 11th in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Oct. 7.

“He didn’t pick up the way he did last year,” trainer Aidan O’Brien said. “I don’t think looking at it anything went wrong. He just didn’t pick up the other two.”

HandicapperErni More than 1 year ago
I underestimated Little Mike and thought he couldn’t get a one mile and a half in that BC Turf and he did. That was a masterpiece ride by Ramon Dominguez and probably by far Dominguez's ride ever. He rode a great race as he took back and won the race. Though he’s not a lock for the Turf divison because he has to contend with the Mile winner who had just a good of campaign as he did. Point of Entry was a closing 2nd but don’t know about him being a factor champion turf horse. Last year’s winner came in 3rd. The biggest disappointments were Shareta the filly, Dullahan and Slim Shadey. Tough to see the Japanese invader Trialblzaer get beat. We can say now that Dullahan is not a turf horse.
Jonathan Yarde More than 1 year ago
Yes had we all known beforehand that he could be rated behind the e/speed he wouldn't have paid close to $36.
Forego137 More than 1 year ago
No question Valasquez rode POE horrible, he had him too far back in the race and not to mention when Treasure Beach cut him off and he had to get snatched up or he would have gone down, oh well thats racing. Congrats to Little (BIG) Mike on a much deserved win, no question he was very impressive and should be considered for horse of the year along with Fort Lardner and Wise Dan. But let me tell you Little Mike has been impressive all year long but yesterday was his best yet. One final not UNITED STATES RAN ONE TWO IN THE TURF ........ SWEET. ;-)
Jonathan Yarde More than 1 year ago
Chance you take when you decide to stay on the rail. When he won the Belmont he was hailed for a brilliant ride. St. Nick was actually just to POE's outside and slightly ahead for most of the race but lost a ton of ground around the final bend, Chance you take when you decide to go wide. It's called horse racing folks!
HandicapperErni More than 1 year ago
I am very surprised that you are criticizing the best rider of our generation. Because look it wouldn't have won the race either way. Johnny V. didn't put a bad ride at all. Very disappointing are criticizing since he doesn't really put in bad rides and I thought this one wasn't a bad ride.
KeenelandCapper More than 1 year ago
no mention of POE in first 200-300 yards of race getting checked badly? easily could have gone down...Jaime spencer on treasure beach ...cost POE the win for sure..much the best horse..
KeenelandCapper More than 1 year ago
better view on NBC,,,
Jordan More than 1 year ago
The problem in terms of the Eclipse is that there are 3 deserving horses vying for 2 awards. Wise Dan, Little Mike, and Fort Larned each went out and won their respective Breeder's Cup races, and came in with grade 1 wins in their pockets. Fort Larned clearly established himself as the top older male on dirt/maintrack. Wise Dan clearly proved himself the best middle distance turf horse, while Little Mike has to be considered the top long distance turf horse. Fort Larned won the biggest maintrack race for 3 year olds and up and arguably the biggest summer race in the Whitney. Wise Dan is a neck away in the Foster from having won 4 total grade 1s on the year, 3 on turf and one on dirt in addition to a brilliant synth win in a grade 3 and a $500k New York turf grade 2. And all Little Mike did was become the first horse to ever win North America's two biggest turf races, the Arlington Million and BC Turf, in the same year. He also won one of the biggest middle distance turf races, the grade 1 Churchill Turf Classic. That's grade 1 wins at 9, 10, and 12 furlongs. If you are of the belief that Wise Dan has to win a divisional Eclipse and believe him to be the best of the 3, the question is would you rather give Little Mike the Male Turf Eclipse or Fort Larned the Older Male Eclipse? Because if you think Little Mike is more deserving than Fort Larned, you could make Little Mike the champion turf horse and Wise Dan the champion older male. In contrast, if you think Fort Larned is more deserving than Little Mike, you can make Fort Larned the champ older male and Wise Dan the turf champ. I'm inclined to give Little Mike the Turf Male and Wise Dan the Older Male.
Mick More than 1 year ago
I love this guy! Seeing him win this made my Breeders' Cup weekend! Put a huge smile on my face, and nice payout. Unfortunately he probably won't be 17-1 in any race now.
jttf More than 1 year ago
little mike and wise dan proved that the europeans and their inflated timeform ratings are a fraud.
Dave Schuler More than 1 year ago
pphhhtttt-where were you watching -caliente??-LOLK-DS
Dave Schuler More than 1 year ago
SORRY WAS= ANSWERING That Carson Horton Joker-lolk-DS
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
Little Mike. He's not little at all. He's mighty. He proved it again today by winning the Breeders' Cup Turf race. This race matched his Arlington Million race in power and excitement. And the price was definitely surprisingly generous. Ramon Dominguez is really in tune with Little Mike, the bond is strong there. Little Mike responded well to everything asked of him by Dominguez today. He's a strong horse. This win may have put him in the running for one of the Eclipse Awards, too. Dale Romans has done an excellent job with Little Mike. Congratulations to Little Mike and his connections on a great, fun to watch victory.
Dave Schuler More than 1 year ago
I Think This Breeders Cup Had Most Everything-(Sure Proved Their 2Nd Stringer Is 4Th String Here,USA Horses @ Connections RULE)-lolk-DS
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Mike is Turf Champion and and Dale Romans is Trainer of The Year.
Philip C More than 1 year ago
You are always wrong Chad! Wise Dan is Horse of the Year and turf horse of the year.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Go to the Wise Dan story and read my comment...
richard montgomery More than 1 year ago
Were they running on astroturf?
Carson Horton More than 1 year ago
The last two days at Santa Anita have been nothing short of a pathetic embarrassment for horse racing and the Breeders Cup!
Dave Schuler More than 1 year ago
THE Breeders Cup Rules Horse Racing (Wise Dan ,Track Record -Little Mike -Awsome- The Frankel People Knew They Had No Chance-They Would Not Even Make The Tri) Sorry We Have The Best @ We Prove It-LOLK-DS
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Don't know what your gripe is lady...Gotta be a Baffert fan.
Curtis V Slewster More than 1 year ago
She or he must be a Brit. Excelebration WAS the answer to the question, "Who is the 2nd Greatest horse of all time."..........That's a BiG Oooops...There goes that theory.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
How. No major injuries, a good mix of favorites, mid-pricers, and longshots, close and competitive racing, and horses from all over winning. Only negative if you are a biased Baffert/Cali racing fan or a Euro(shut out in the Turf, Mile, and Filly + Mare Turf). Weather was glorious, setting fantastic.