03/13/2013 4:03PM

Dubai: Little Mike goes back to turf and gets Stevens

Barbara D. Livingston
Little Mike will target either the $5 million Sheema Classic or the $5 million Duty Free.

Little Mike will return to turf racing for the Dubai World Cup card on March 30, according to Carlo Vaccarezza, who bred Little Mike and whose wife, Priscilla, owns the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner. Vaccarezza also confirmed that Gary Stevens will pick up the mount on Little Mike in his World Cup race, replacing Kieren Fallon, who was aboard for Little Mike’s eighth-place finish in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on March 9.

Stevens also will ride the other Dale Romans-trained horse racing March 30 at Meydan, Dullahan, whose target is the $10 million World Cup. Fallon rode Dullahan to a troubled 11th-place finish in the Burj Nahaar.

Little Mike tried a synthetic surface for the first time in the Al Maktoum Challenge. Had he excelled, he, too, could have started in the World Cup. Instead, Little Mike, a three-time Grade 1 turf winner in 2012, will target either the $5 million Sheema Classic over about 1 1/2 miles or the $5 million Duty Free over about 1 1/8 miles, Vaccarezza said.

The Sheema Classic holds appeal because Little Mike could wind up controlling a slow tempo in the race. The City of Gold Stakes, the Meydan prep for the Sheema Classic, unfolded at a glacial pace on March 9.

In other World Cup news, trainer Graham Motion said Tuesday that Joel Rosario would ride Animal Kingdom in the World Cup. Rosario was aboard Animal Kingdom for the first time for a second-place finish in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap last month. Rosario received widespread criticism for his decision to make an early move to the lead with Animal Kingdom, who was caught in the stretch by Point of Entry.

“I’m not a big believer in jerking riders off a horse just because they make one mistake,” said Motion. “And sometimes it takes an experience like that for a rider to get to know a horse better.”

Animal Kingdom worked seven furlongs in company with Badleroibrown on Monday over the Palm Meadows turf course, a breeze timed in 1:26.77. Animal Kingdom is scheduled to work again on Monday, March 18, before shipping to Dubai the next day.

On the flight with Animal Kingdom will be Florida-based champion Royal Delta, who has one final piece of work of her own to do at Payson Park before traveling to Dubai for the second year in a row.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch