Little Mike Ready for 2014 Debut May 17 at Gulfstream
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL
- Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, who first arrived at Gulfstream Park in 1947, said earlier this week his current plan is to remain stabled at Gulfstream year-round rather than return to New York.
Jerkens, 85, one of Thoroughbred racing’s most respected horsemen, has historically spent the winter racing season at Gulfstream before returning to New York for the spring and fall at Belmont Park and the summer at Saratoga.
“It was based on several things,” said Jerkens of his decision earlier this week as he sat in his golf cart at Gulfstream during training hours. “I’m getting older, as everyone knows. I’m not unhealthy but I’m not as strong as I used to be. I just made up my mind.”
Of course, Jerkens never had the option to spend the spring and summer at Gulfstream until 2013, when the Hallandale Beach track operated its first summer meeting. After racing just two days a week last summer, Gulfstream is currently racing three days a week.
Jerkens, who came to Gulfstream in 1947 to rub horses, was the youngest trainer elected to the Hall of Fame at age 45. His career has been one of the most remarkable in racing, having developed more than 160 stakes winners after saddling his first winner at Aqueduct in 1950.
Not only is Jerkens referred to as "The Chief," but he's been dubbed by some journalists as the ‘The Giant Killer’ following the memorable upset victories posted over several decades, beginning with Beau Purple defeating Kelso three times, Handsome Boy’s victory over Buckpasser in the ‘60s, and Onion and Prove Out’s separate victories over Triple Crown legend Secretariat in 1973.
At Gulfstream, winners saddled by Jerkens include Devil His Due in the 1993 Gulfstream Park Handicap and 1994 Skip Away, Miss Shop in the 2007 Rampart, Teammate in the 2006 Gulfstream Oaks, Sensitive Prince in the 1979 Gulfstream Park Handicap and 1978 Fountain of Youth and Hutcheson Stakes, and Any Limit in the 2007 and 2009 Hurricane Bertie and 2007 First Lady.
Jerkens, who has saddled more than 3,850 winners, currently has 10 horses stabled at Gulfstream. His current plan is to run Davona Dale (G2) and Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) runner-up House Rules in the June 7 $750,000 Acorn on Belmont Stakes Day. Jerkens said he’s not sure if he’ll make that trip.
When asked if he’ll miss spending time in New York, Jerkens replied; “Of course. It will be hard not going there and it will be hard getting used to the heat down here. But I feel good, and if I have a horse who warrants (going to Saratoga) maybe I’ll go.”
Photo Credit of Allen Jerkens: Jon Kral
Little Mike Set for 2014 Debut
Little Mike, the popular 7-year-old gelding and winner of the 2012 Arlington Million (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), could make his long-awaited 2014 debut May 17 at Gulfstream in the $75,000 Flying Pidgeon at a mile on the turf.
“I’m thinking about running him here Preakness Day and then sending him to New York to run in the ($1 million) Manhattan (G1) on Belmont Stakes Day,” said trainer Carlo Vaccarezza. “This race would be a prep for the Manhattan.”
Little Mike, who has won five of seven races across Gulfstream’s turf, including the Grade III Fort Lauderdale, Appleton and Canadian, has not raced since finishing ninth in the Hong Kong Cup in December at Sha Tin. Vaccarezza shipped Little Mike to Churchill Downs earlier in the month to race against two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Woodford Reserve Classic (G1), but later pulled his horse and shipped him back to Gulfstream.
“Little Mike is doing very well,” Vaccarezza said. “When he came back from Hong Kong, where he blew the turn and lost all kinds of ground we sent him to J.J. Crupi’s in Ocala and they did a great job there. Now he’s back and he’s healthy and happy. He’s a young 7-year-old and he’s smart. For us, we just want to keep him healthy and happy. He’s the kind of horse you don’t have to run 10 times a year. We’ll take care of him and maybe he’ll run four or five times.”