07/28/2016 5:02PM

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

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."

Nikola Milosavljevic 19 days ago
Great horse and very kind owners. Pleasure to watch this beautiful animal go to the front and stay there each time sure loved to run in front of other horses. Enjoy retirement big heart mike!
Matthew Linda More than 1 year ago
Going to camp and being 100% sound represents the careful handling and astounding 'LOVE' for 'LITTLE MIKE'. Sadly, someone decided to 'GELD' him. The LADIES will miss and opportunity to SHAKE their flank at 'BIG MIKE'. Enjoy your NEW home and be SAFE !!!! 
Jersey Skip
Jeanne Johnson More than 1 year ago
How wonderful you are retiring him sound and you love him and respect him enough to do this - now he will have a great life at a great place just being a horse; something he deserves...
I have been there and think it's a fabulous facility filled with people who care about the horses..
what we need more of in our world!

Vince Piscitelli More than 1 year ago
Old Friends is good folk. I hope and pray that in about 57 years when I retire, my wife sends me to Old Friends too.

Vince P
Frank More than 1 year ago
Little Mike and others like him who spend a career in racing - be it at any level - are the true champions of this sport.  They beat all the odds and survive this toughest of tests.

Look forward to seeing this champion @ Old Friends.
Vickie Aument More than 1 year ago
So glad they retired him- Old Friends is a BONUS! Be Happy Little Mike 
Mary Hoffman More than 1 year ago
Great news for Little Mike's fans (like me) but I sympathize with his connections - his "family"". Hope they take comfort in knowing they did right by him and many many fans will get to see him!
Patricia Shockey More than 1 year ago
Little Mike was 1 of my favorite racehorses. .I loved his name & gutsy competitive personality. .Little Mike will be out my virtual stable but I'll always remember him..so glad he's going to Old Friends and retiring sound..Best of luck to all connected to Little Mike.