12/18/2011 12:12PM

Gulfstream: Grade 3 winner Little Mike tunes up for comeback

Bob Coglianese
Little Mike won three Grade 3 turf stakes last winter, including the Appleton. He will make his first start since April in an optional claimer on Thursday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -   The turf course was open for workouts Sunday morning at Gulfstream Park, the first time the inner strip has been available for training since the 2011-2012 meet began on Dec. 3.

The first horse to take advantage of the opportunity to work on the grass was one of the turf stars of the 2011 session, Little Mike, who won three Grade 3 races over this course last winter. With Joe Bravo aboard, Little Mike worked five furlongs in 58.86 seconds, posting splits of 24.01 and 36.06 seconds while put under some brief but mild encouragement inside the eighth pole.

Little Mike has not started since winning the Grade 3 Appleton on April 3.  A son of Spanish Steps, Little Mike sustained a cracked shin while training at Churchill Downs for the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve.

“He worked well,” said trainer Dale Romans, who just returned to south Florida after taking the red eye back from the West Coast, where he ran Cozzetti in Saturday’s Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park. “Joe said he was like his old self this morning.”

Little Mike will launch his comeback in a high-priced optional claiming race here on Thursday.

Grade 1 winner Never Retreat, whose career is expected to come to an end after she runs in the Grade 3 Marshua’s River on Jan. 7, followed Little Mike over the firm course,  breezing an easy five furlongs in 59.86 while going easily throughout. Like Little Mike, Never Retreat also shaded 23 for her final quarter-mile after  posting fractions of 25.02 and 37.14 for the opening quarter and three-eighths.

Never Retreat won the Grade 3 Honey Fox here last winter. She is coming off a third-place finish as the 4-5 favorite in Hollywood’s Grade 1 Matriarch.

A couple of turf specialists, Kindergarden Kid and Presious Passion, worked over the fast main track here Sunday. Kindergarden Kid, winner of an overnight stakes over the Aqueduct grass course in his 2011 finale, went an easy half in 48 while Presious Passion continued preparing for a possible comeback of his own by breezing the same distance in 50.66 for trainer Mary Hartman.

Another notable worker here, Fall Highweight runner-up Nathan’s H Q, breezed six furlongs in 1:15.01 and galloped out seven-eighths in 1:28.39 shortly after the first renovation break. Nathan’s H Q is scheduled to make his next start in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector on Dec. 31.