07/28/2016 5:02PM

Four-time Grade 1 winner Little Mike retired to Old Friends

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Barbara D. Livingston
Little Mike retires at 9 with earnings of more than $3.5 million.

Owner-trainer Carlo Vaccarezza said Thursday that he has retired his four-time Grade 1 winner Little Mike, who will live out the remainder of his days at Old Friends Thoroughbred retirement farm in Kentucky.

Little Mike, a 9-year-old son of Spanish Steps named after Vaccarezza's oldest son, retires with 14 wins in 30 starts and earnings of over $3.5 million. His most notable victories came in 2012, when he captured both the Breeders' Cup Turf and Arlington Million for trainer Dale Romans.

Vaccarezza took over as trainer in 2014, sending Little Mike out to his final victory in the Flying Pidgeon Stakes at Gulfstream Park that May. The final start of his career came July 10, when Little Mike returned from a 26-month layoff to finish fifth in an allowance race at Gulfstream.

"He left Palm Meadows this morning and arrives at Old Friends at 6 tomorrow morning," said Vaccarezza on Thursday. Vaccarezza said he will be on hand to greet his old friend when he walks off the van.

"Age finally caught up to him," he said. "He came out of his race fine, but the last few days he just didn't seem to have the same energy level he has had when training these past weeks and months. He came back blowing yesterday after a routine gallop. He wasn't his usual rambunctious self, and kind of looked at me and told me it was over. The one thing I can say is that he retired 100 percent sound.

"He was everything to me and my family. To have a horse that won all those Grade 1's, who took me and my family around the world to meet so many people, it's like a dream come true. Horses like him don't come along that often, especially one like him with blue-collar breeding, whose dam we rescued from going to the killers. Needless to say, it was a very emotional scene this morning at the barn, with my sons both there with me to watch him leave. It just broke our hearts to see him go after all he's meant to all of us over the years."