Little Mike, the winner of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs May 5, has arrived in Southern California to prepare for Saturday’s Shoemaker Mile (G1) according to trainer Dale Romans.
“He’s already on the grounds,” Romans said from Kentucky. “He’s in Tom Proctor’s barn and my wife Tammy is there with him.”
Bred in Florida by Carlo Vaccarezza of Parkland, Fla., Little Mike has won five of his last six races going back to the February, 2011 Canadian Turf (G3) at Gulfstream Park. He then won the Appleton Stakes (G3) there in April before taking a nine-month break and coming back to win a Dec. 22 optional claiming race, also at Gulfstream Park. He then won the Sunshine Millions Turf Classic before stumbling in his defense of the Canadian Turf this year and finishing fourth. Going back to October of 2010, Little Mike has won eight of his last eleven.
Owned by Carlo’s wife Priscilla Vaccarezza, Little Mike received his early training at Jim Crupi’s New Castle Farm in Ocala.
While unusual for a turf horse competing successfully at the grade 1 level, Little Mike’s front-running style has proven difficult for his competition. In all of those previous 11 races, the only time he has been headed has been in the final furlong of those in which he did not win. He hasn’t been headed at the top of the stretch since a 2010 allowance race at Calder. Although he was pinched back going into the first turn and was five-lengths off the pace early, the 5-year-old son of Spanish Steps remained determined and came from off the pace to win that day.
“He’s a speed horse,” Romans confirmed. “He’s fast and he has endurance. If anyone tries to run with him, they’ll pay the price.”
The trainer also indicated the “Win and You’re In” provision for guaranteed entry into the Breeders’ Cup (Mile Nov. 3 at Santa Anita) was a major factor in shipping the horse to Betfair Hollywood Park.
A Grade 1 on turf, the Shoemaker Mile will be run for the 69th time Saturday, June 30 at Betfair Hollywood Park. Named in honor of the legendary jockey who won 2,416 races – including 280 stakes – at Hollywood Park, the Shoemaker Mile has attracted a strong group of 12 other nominees.
Owned by breeder St. George Farm Racing LLC and trained by John Shirreffs, Mr. Commons was defeated a neck by Willyconker in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile March 3 at Santa Anita prior to a 1 ½ length loss to Wilkinson in the Grade 2 American Handicap May 26 in his initial try over the Hollywood Park grass.
A 4-year-old son of Artie Schiller and the Apalachee mare Joustabout, Mr. Commons has won five of 13 and earned $653,660. He is without a Grade 1 victory.
Another prominent Florida-bred nominated to the Shoemaker is Comma to the Top, the Horse of the Meet during the 2010 Autumn season at Hollywood Park when he won the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at age two. Owned by Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Kevin Tsujihara and trained by Peter Miller, the 4-year-old gelded son of Bwana Charlie and the Stormy Atlantic mare Maggies Storm has won eight of 18 and banked $835,300. In his only local grass start, Comma to the Top won the Grade 3 Generous in 2010. Comma to the Top was bred by Richard and Linda Thompson of Morriston, Fla.The rest of the Shoemaker Mile nominees are Camp Victory, Compari, who was seventh in the 2010 renewal, Corporate Jungle, Dubai You X Y Z, Hudson Landing, Jeranimo, Liberian Freighter, who finished sixth in the race in 2011, Slim Shadey, Suggestive Boy and Venomous.
Photo by Reed Palmer