08/09/2011 1:01PM

Woodbine: Plate winner Big Red Mike out for the year

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Michael Burns
Big Red Mike and Eurico Rosa Da Silva win the $1 million Queen’s Plate in 2010.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Big Red Mike, winner of the Queen’s Plate and Canada’s champion 3-year-old male of 2010, is on the farm and will not see action again this season.

Owned and bred by Dom Romeo and trained by Nick Gonzalez, Big Red Mike was winless in his last six starts but finished an encouraging third when trying turf for the first time in the 1 3/8-mile allowance prep for the Singspiel Stakes in his last start on June 3.

“He came back and breezed, and came out of it well, but when he galloped and then jogged he was showing signs of lameness,” said Martha Gonzalez, who is Nick’s wife and assistant and runs the day-to-day operation here at Woodbine. “He had bone bruising in behind. It’s quite common on the synthetic track. He also had the slight start of a fracture in his back cannon bone, but that ended up to be not as significant as the bone bruising. It worked out well that we found out when we did. He really would have broken down if we’d gone any further with him.”

Big Red Mike has been turned out at nearby Huntington Stud and is scheduled to winter in Florida with Nick Gonzalez, who will be based at Palm Meadows for the first time.

“He has a couple of clients who want to race at Gulfstream,” said Martha Gonzalez.

“We’ll get Big Red Mike ready down there. He’ll probably race once or twice, then we’ll bring him back up. We know he handles the turf and he’d probably like the turf at Gulfstream when it gets a little firm and he can hear his feet rattle.”

Team Gonzalez is looking forward to starting Nicola’s Nickers in Sunday’s $125,000 Victoriana, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for Ontario-sired fillies and mares. Nicola’s Nickers, a 4-year-old owned by Mike Ambler and partners, finished third when racing for a $12,500 claiming price here May 14.

But Nicola’s Nickers has bloomed since stretching out to 1 1/16 miles, winning her turf debut in a restricted first-level allowance and then finishing second before knocking out her second Ontario-sired condition last time out.

“I think she’s better on turf than synthetic,” said Martha Gonzalez. “Her action’s totally different on it. She’s a crotchety kind of horse, but once she warms up she looks a lot better. The further she gallops, the nicer she goes.”