01/09/2011 6:22PM

Little Mike wins head bob in Fort Lauderdale

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Bob Coglianese
Little Mike digs in to hold of Blues Street at the wire in the Grade 3 Fort Lauderdale Stakes on Sunday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – What a difference a nose makes.

In the case of Little Mike, a nose made the difference between the steadily improving gelding becoming not only a stakes winner but a graded stakes winner for the first time after he won a head bob from Blues Street to upset Sunday’s $100,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Little Mike had won four of his five starts since being switched to the turf but had started just twice against stakes company and never against graded stakes opposition prior to the Grade 3 Fort Lauderdale. He controlled the Fort Lauderdale from start to finish under jockey Joe Bravo.

Little Mike sprinted to command shortly after the start and rated along on a comfortable pace over the firm course, setting fractions of 23.08 seconds, 46.79, and 1:10.35 for the opening six furlongs. Little Mike shook loose of his early pursuers, including the multiple Grade 2 winner Get Stormy, approaching the stretch but appeared destined to finish second when engaged by the late-charging Blues Street near midstretch. However, Little Mike dug in bravely at that point to get his nose down first at the wire.

Smart Bid finished another 1 1/4 lengths further back in third. Battle of Hastings, the 2-1 favorite, had to check when unable to split horses while attempting to rally in early stretch and finished an unlucky sixth.

Little Mike covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.52 over a firm course and paid $27.80.

“I couldn’t tell whether we’d won or not watching from the grandstand,” said Allen Iwinski who trains Little Mike for the K Z Stables and Priscilla Vaccarezza. “His brother Little Nick was a multiple stakes winner on turf, and he’s just been improving right along since he got on the grass. We tried rating him in his last race, and he responded to win, which is good because it opens another dimension. But there wasn’t a lot of speed in this field, so we thought putting him on the lead was the best option today.

“There were five horses in this field we beat today with Grade 1 experience, and we’re not going to run from anybody with him now,” Iwinski said.