07/10/2016 5:00PM

Little Mike finishes fifth in comeback

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Kenny Martin/Coglianese Photos
Gentlmen's Agrement, ridden by Luca Panici, wins a high-priced optional claiming race on turf by a length.

Little Mike, a winner of four Grade 1 races, including the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf, disappointed in returning from a layoff of more than two years in the seventh race at Gulfstream Park on Sunday, finishing fifth.

Competing in $44,000 allowance with a $62,500 claiming condition, even-money favorite Little Mike showed his customary early speed but was unable to offer any fight when rivals challenged him on the second turn in a 1 1/16-mile turf contest. He was quickly passed, fell back to third entering the stretch, and continued to lose ground to ultimately finish 5 1/4 lengths behind victorious Gentlmen’s Agrement.

Other than the time away, necessitated by tendinitis and a suspensory injury, there were no excuses for Little Mike, a 9-year-old gelded son of Spanish Steps trained by Carlo Vaccarezza and owned by his wife, Priscilla. He established an easy pace of 47.52 seconds under only token early pressure.

The race marked his first start since he won the Flying Pidgeon Stakes at Gulfstream on May 17, 2014.

Sunday’s race was not without complications for other runners. Two claims of foul by losing jockeys occurred after the race, although both were quickly disallowed by the stewards, and Gentlmen’s Agrement ($7) was travelling uncomfortably when jogging after the race and was unsaddled on the backstretch.

The winner completed 1 1/16 miles on a firm turf course in 1:41.13. He paid $7 as the second betting choice in the six-horse field.