09/25/2013 2:24PM

Breeders' Cup Turf: Little Mike gets another shot to prove he belongs

Barbara D. Livingston
Little Mike, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, is targeting his first victory of 2013 in Saturday’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont.

Little Mike has one more chance this weekend to earn a trip to California to defend his title in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.

After losing all four of his starts in 2013, Little Mike starts in Saturday’s $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park in need of a strong performance.

“If he wins or is competitive in the Joe Hirsch, we’ll take him back to California,” said Carlo Vaccarezza, who bred Little Mike.

Trained by Dale Romans for Vaccarezza’s wife, Priscilla, Little Mike was sixth in the Arlington Million on Aug. 17 in his last start, losing by four lengths. He was fourth in the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park in July, beaten 3 1/4 lengths in his first race since an 11th in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates in March.

Carlo Vaccarezza said he was not discouraged by the domestic losses, saying Little Mike needed time to recover from the Dubai journey.

“He ran competitive races, but he didn’t win,” he said. “I think Dubai is out of his system.”

[BREEDERS’ CUP 2013: See DRF’s top contenders]

Little Mike is part of a strong field in the Joe Hirsch, a pivotal prep race for the BC Turf.

The Grade 1 Hirsch, run over 1 1/2 miles on turf, will include Real Solution, who won the Arlington Million on Aug. 17 after The Apache was disqualified from first to second; and Big Blue Kitten, winner of the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park in July and the Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 17. Real Solution and Big Blue Kitten race for Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Chad Brown.

Real Solution holds a fees-paid berth to the BC Turf through the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program for his win in the Arlington Million. The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic also offers a fees-paid berth to the winner.

The primary BC Turf prep in California in September is Sunday’s $150,000 John Henry Turf Championship over 1 1/4 miles. Vagabond Shoes, who earned a fees-paid berth to the BC Turf with his win in the Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 24, and Indy Point, last in the Arlington Million, are two leading contenders. Indy Point emerged from the Arlington Million with “banged-up front feet,” according to trainer Richard Mandella. Indy Point resumed workouts in late August.

The European contingent for the BC Turf will be better known after the $6,480,000 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp Racecourse in Paris on Oct. 6. Orfevre, from Japan; the French mare Treve; and Novellist, the German-based winner of three consecutive Group 1 races this year; are the leading contenders for the Arc.

Novellist holds a fees-paid berth to the BC Turf for his wins in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in France in June, the King George VI Stakes at Ascot in July, and the Grosser Preis Von Baden in Germany on Sept. 1, all Win and In You’re In races.

The Fugue, a 4-year-old filly trained by John Gosden, is a probable starter for the Arc. She won the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Sept. 7, earning a fees-paid berth to the BC Turf.

Some European-based runners could opt to skip the BC Turf in favor of the Japan Cup in Tokyo in November or a race in Hong Kong in December, if they stay in training that late in the year. Other potential foreign starters could stay in Europe for the $2,079,000 Champion Stakes over 1 1/4 miles at Ascot on Oct. 19.