03/14/2013 2:02PM

Little Mike named Florida-bred Horse of the Year

Tom Keyser
Breeders' Cup Turf winner Little Mike was named 2012 Florida-bred Horse of the Year by the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association.

Coast-to-coast sensation Little Mike, who won three Grade 1 races in 2012 including the Breeders’ Cup Turf and was an Eclipse Award finalist in the champion turf male division, has been named the 2012 Florida-bred Horse of the Year by the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association. The award was announced along with other honors at the FTBOA Florida Champions Awards Gala, held at the Circle Square Cultural Center in Ocala, Fla., on March 11.

Little Mike, a 6-year-old Spanish Steps gelding out of the Wavering Monarch mare Hay Jude, was bred by Miami-based Carlo Vaccarezza, campaigned by his wife Priscilla, and named for their son. He entered 2012 as a fan favorite and multiple graded stakes winner but elevated his game in a breakthrough season, capturing four high-profile turf events at four different racetracks. He took the Florida Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park to begin his campaign, and then won the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs and the Arlington Million Stakes at Arlington Park. The latter two were Grade 1 events.

Little Mike concluded 2012 with a game score over Point of Entry in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita Park. He earned $2,668,742 last year and has bankrolled $3,074,412 for his career. Little Mike was awarded divisional titles earlier this year as champion older male and champion turf male by FTBOA.

His campaign helped trainer Dale Romans win his first Eclipse Award, and also secured the FTBOA’s 2012 Broodmare of the Year award for his dam Hay Jude. Hay Jude is currently the only broodmare owned by the Vaccarezzas, and is also the dam of multiple stakes winner Little Nick, by Tiger Ridge.

J. Michael O’Farrell, president of Ocala Stud, collected his third consecutive Florida Breeder of the Year Award. His farm was represented by five Florida-bred stakes winners in 2012, including Grade 1 winners Musical Romance, by Concorde’s Tune, and Turbulent Descent, by Congrats.

Put It Back, who stands at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, was named 2012 Florida Stallion of the Year and leading Florida juvenile sire. He ranked atop the earnings list for Florida sires in both categories last year. His leading earner on the season was Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes winner Yara; his leading juvenile, Brave Dave, won the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes.

Circular Quay, who stands at Brent and Crystal Fernung’s Journeyman Bloodstock in Ocala, was named leading Florida freshman sire. He led the state’s freshman sire earnings list and was represented by ten winners last year, including stakes winner and Florida-bred champion 2-year-old filly Verso a Verso.

Other awards announced at the March 11 gala included the 2012 Needles Award, given to John and Carol Rio, who were represented by Grade 2 Suburban Handicap winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Mucho Macho Man. The Needles Award honors breeders who own small operations and make significant contributions to the industry. The 2012 Joe O’Farrell Memorial Award, presented by the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. to the original consignor of the year’s best Florida-bred racehorse offered at public auction, was given to consignor Thoroughstock, who sold eventual 2012 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out as a weanling for $11,000 at the 2006 OBS January mixed sale.

Priscilla Vaccarezza was honored as leading owner by Florida-bred earnings. The trainers’ awards were given to William Kaplan, who led the state-bred earnings list; to Stanley Gold, who led in stakes wins; and to Kathleen O’Connell and Kirk Ziadie, who tied for the most races won by Florida-breds in 2012.

A full list of 2012 award winners and divisional champions follows. The divisional champions were announced in January 2013 by FTBOA.

Horse of the Year; champion older male; champion turf male: Little Mike
2007, bay gelding, Spanish Steps – Hay Jude, by Wavering Monarch
Breeder: Carlo E. Vaccarezza
Owner: Priscilla Vaccarezza
Trainer: Dale Romans

Champion older female; Champion female sprinter: Musical Romance
2007, bay mare, Concorde’s Tune – Candlelight Dinner, by Slew Gin Fizz
Breeder: Ocala Stud
Owners: Pinnacle Racing and William Kaplan
Trainer: William Kaplan

Champion 2-Year-Old colt: Merit Man
2010, bay colt, With Distinction – Precise Strike, by Precise End
Breeders: Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds and Stephen Barberino
Owners: Bruce Chandler, Double Kee LLC and Purple Shamrock Racing
Trainer: Robert Hess Jr.

Champion 2-Year-Old filly: Verso a Verso
2010, bay filly, Circular Quay – Folk Art, by Bertrando
Breeders: Brent Fernung, Crystal Fernung and Dr. Phil Matthews
Owner: Frank Calabrese
Trainer: Luis Ramirez

Champion 3-Year-Old colt: Fort Loudon
2009, bay colt, Awesome of Course – Lottsa Talc, by Talc
Breeder/Owner: Jacks Or Better Farm
Trainer: Stanley Gold

Champion 3-Year-Old filly: Eden’s Moon
2009, bay filly, Malibu Moon – Eden’s Causeway, by North of Eden
Breeder: Bridlewood Farm
Owner: Kaleem Shah
Trainer: Bob Baffert

Champion male sprinter: Coil
2007, chestnut colt, Point Given – Eversmile, by Theatrical
Breeder: Glen Hill Farm
Owners: Karl Watson, Michael E. Pegram and Paul Weitman
Trainer: Bob Baffert

Champion turf female: Bay to Bay
2007, bay mare, Sligo Bay – Bala, by With Approval
Breeder: Adena Springs
Owner: Robert Smithen
Trainer: Brian Lynch

Breeder of the Year: Ocala Stud (J. Michael O'Farrell Jr., President)

Stallion of the Year, leading juvenile sire: Put It Back
1998, bay horse, Honour and Glory – Miss Shoplifter, by Exuberant

Broodmare of the Year: Hay Jude
1995, bay mare, Wavering Monarch – Double Norm, by Relaunch

Leading freshman sire: Circular Quay
2004, chestnut horse, Thunder Gulch – Circle of Life, by Belong to Me

Needles Award: John and Carol Rio

Joe O’Farrell Memorial Award: Thoroughstock
Horse: Flat Out (2006, bay horse, Flatter – Cresta Lil, by Cresta Rider)

Leading owner by Florida-bred earnings: Priscilla Vaccarezza

Leading Florida trainer by state-bred earnings: William Kaplan

Leading Florida trainer by state-bred stakes wins: Stanley Gold

Leading Florida trainer by state-bred wins: Kathleen O’Connell and Kirk Ziadie (tie)