By Laura Villasana
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Priscilla Vaccarezza’s Little Mike captured the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf in his typical front-running fashion, earning his fourth-straight victory over Gulfstream Park’s turf course going wire-to-wire.
“He proved to me a long time ago that he won’t let another horse past him without putting up one heck of a fight,” regular rider Joe Bravo said. “He was the best horse in the race and he showed it.”
The 5-year-old gelding quickly took the early lead in the 1 1/8-mile race, heading the pack by 1 ½-lengths as the 1.60-1 favorite. Second-choice Teaks North, who served Little Mike his only loss at Gulfstream in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) last season, sat off the leader in fourth. Beckham Bend stalked the winner in the second lane, while Slews Answer and jockey Ramon Dominguez sat in third on the rail. Going into the final turn, Beckham Bend faded, allowing Dominguez and Slews Answer to power forward, racing to try and overtake Little Mike down the stretch. Little Mike held on gamely, however, to add another stakes race to his belt as well as one for his trainer Dale Romans.
Fractional times for the race were 23.60, 48.01, 1:11.71, and 1:34.51, with a final time of 1:45.94.
“I wish someone had gone on and softened him up, but I was pleased with my horse. He ran great,” said H. Graham Motion, trainer of second-place finisher Slews Answer.
Little Mike’s successes at Gulfstream began in 2011 when he captured the Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G3) for his first-ever stakes win. He returned in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, where he finished sixth to the likes of Teaks North and Get Stormy, then came from that to win the Canadian Turf Stakes (G3) and the Appleton Stakes (G3).
A cracked shin was cause for a summer layoff. Little Mike made his first start back in an allowance on December 22 in advance of the Sunshine Millions Turf.
“He’s a better horse this year than he was last coming back from the injury,” Romans said. “I’ve always thought he could get the mile-and-an-eighth because even though he runs on the front, he relaxes. I haven’t got anything in particular picked out for him at this point. We’ll start talking about it tomorrow.”
Completing the order of finish were Bad Debt, Livingston Street, Teaks North, Roman Tiger, Bell by the Ridge, and Beckham Bend. Allie’s Event, Stay Red, and Blazen were scratched.