12/22/2011 5:49PM

Gulfstream: Little Mike holds on by nose in comeback

Bob Coglianese
Little Mike barely holds off Yankee Fourtine (1) while making his first start since April in a prep for a stakes appearance sometime in January.

Little Mike, sidelined since April by a cracked shin, ended his 2011 campaign the way it began with a game wire-to-wire victory over the Gulfstream Park turf course on Thursday.

Little Mike, who opened the year with a nose victory in the Grade 3 Ft. Lauderdale, led throughout, then withstood a final surge by Yankee Fourtune to post a similar nose decision in Thursday’s co-featured seventh race, which featured a graded stakes quality field competing under high-priced optional claiming and allowance conditions.

The Ft. Lauderdale was one of three Grade 3 races Little Mike won here in 2011, along with the Canadian Turf and Appleton. As was the case in each of those victories, Little Mike was ridden Thursday by Joe Bravo.

“I thought he ran a big race, he looked like his old self,” said Romans by phone from Kentucky. “There were a bunch of stakes horses in this field and he really dug in to win it. It’s a good way to get him started although I believe there is still a little room for him to improve.”

Romans and owner-breeder Carlo Vaccarezza said either the Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 14 or the Florida Sunshine Millions Turf on Jan.28 would likely be next for Little Mike.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he was pleased with Yankee Fourtune’s performance even in defeat. The outing was just the second for Yankee Fourtune since he finished third behind Little Mike in the Canadian Turf 10 months ago.

“I thought it was a great run for him,” said McLaughlin. “I was happy with the way he finished coming off the layoff. He’s usually on the lead and slows down. I was glad to see him come from off the pace today.”