01/26/2012 3:14PM

Gulfstream: Little Mike faces nemesis Teaks North in Sunshine Millions Turf

Ashley Blum
Little Mike won three Grade 3 turf stakes last winter, including the Canadian Turf.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Little Mike has lost only one race over Gulfstream Park’s turf course and just once in his last six starts dating back to December 2010. The bad news is the horse that beat him, Teaks North, is also entered in Saturday’s $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park.

Little Mike and Teaks North head an 11-horse field entered to run 1 1/8 miles in the Sunshine Millions Turf.

Little Mike is 4 for 5 at Gulfstream, including three graded stakes victories at last year’s meet. His only loss here came in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap – his only try at 1 1/8 miles – when he finished sixth, 2 1/2 lengths behind Teaks North.

“It wasn’t a bad race. He only got beat a couple of lengths in a Grade 1,’’ Dale Romans, the trainer of Little Mike, said. “The only problem is the horse that beat him is in here, but he’s training really well.”

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Little Mike suffered a condylar fracture last spring training for the Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs. He returned off an eight-month layoff with a nose victory over Yankee Fourtune in an optional claimer going one mile at Gulfstream on Dec. 22.

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“I wasn’t completely sure he was 100 percent ready to run, but I knew we needed to get him going to get him to this race,” Romans said.

Joe Bravo, who is 8 for 9 on Little Mike, rides the 5-year-old gelding from post 5.

In addition to winning the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, Teaks North also won the Grade 1 United Nations last year. Trainer Justin Sallusto said he believes Teaks North was compromised by soft ground and several bumping incidents when eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Sallusto also thought Teaks North had trouble when beaten only three lengths in the Ft. Lauderdale here on Jan. 14.

“He got blocked two, maybe three times,” Sallusto said. “He only got a chance to run the last eighth of a mile actually. I’m not blaming the rider, everything shut down on him every opportunity he had. Hopefully, it sets him up pretty good for this race.”

Sallusto is making a rider change to John Velazquez.

Bad Debt, Roman Tiger, and Slews Dancer are the main threats to the top two.