12/19/2012 5:25PM

Gulfstream Park: Little Mike will experiment on synthetic surface to determine Dubai World Cup status

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Tom Keyser
Breeders' Cup Turf winner Little Mike will be pointed toward Dubai. Still to be determined is whether he will run in the $10 million Dubai World Cup or the Dubai Sheema Classic on turf.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Little Mike won two of the most prestigious grass races in this country in 2012, the Arlington Million and Breeders’ Cup Turf. His next major goal could be the richest race in the world, the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Owner Carlo Vaccarezza and trainer Dale Romans have both confirmed that Little Mike will make his first two starts in 2013 in Dubai. The first of those races will be over a synthetic surface as a possible prep for the World Cup, which is run over a Tapeta surface at Meydan. Little Mike has never raced over a synthetic surface but trained on Cushion Track at Betfair Hollywood Park with exercise rider Tammy Fox prior to his third-place finish this past summer in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile.

“Tammy said she loved the way he went on the [synthetic track] when he trained over it in California so I think we should probably go over and give him a shot,” said Romans. “We have two or three races to choose from in Meydan as a possible prep for World Cup Day. The main one is three weeks out, at a mile and one quarter. I’ll have to talk to them over there and figure out the dates and exactly how and when we can get him there.”

Romans said if Little Mike runs well on synthetics, he will be entered in the World Cup. If not, he will start in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic on the turf.

“If we don’t like the way he runs on the [Tapeta], we can go back to the turf race,” said Romans, who is also planning to take Dullahan to Dubai for the World Cup.

Little Mike is among the leading candidates for an Eclipse Award as both the champion male turf horse and as Horse of the Year. In addition to the Arlington Million and Breeders’ Cup Turf, Little Mike won the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs and the Sunshine Millions Turf when launching his campaign here at Gulfstream Park last January. Little Mike will likely have his first work since the Breeders’ Cup sometime next week.

Romans has been training pretty well himself of late, having lost nearly 50 pounds while working out with the University of Louisville basketball team.

“Rick Pitino called me and invited me over to the team’s practice facility, which is located only a mile from Churchill Downs,” said Romans. “I went over to see him and he gives me the strength coach, the trainer, a nutritionist, shirts, shoes, shorts, a locker in the coaches’ locker room and a key to get into the building and says ‘So what’s your excuse now?’”

Romans said not only has he taken off all the weight, he’s having a blast working out with the Cardinals.

“They’re a great bunch of kids and fun to be around, but they haven’t let me out on the court yet,” said Romans, who has one horse in training for Pitino.