HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - On Saturday, 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) and Arlington Million (G1) winner Little Mike will return to the scene of his very first stakes victory when he starts in the $75,000 Flying Pidgeon Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Since taking the Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream in 2011, Little Mike has won four Grade 1s and amassed more than $3.4 million in earnings. This weekend, he will be making his first start of 2014 and first since finishing ninth in the Longines Hong Kong Cup (Group 1) at Sha Tin last December. Jockey Elvis Trujillo has the mount.
It will also be Little Mike’s first start for trainer Carlo Vaccarezza. Vaccarezza, who bred Little Mike, took over training of the 7-year-old-gelding in March, after he decided to start his own stable at Gulfstream and train full-time. So far, the restaurant aficionado, who still owns Frank and Dino’s in Deerfield Beach, is winning races at a 19% clip in 2014, and three of his first-time starters – Little Alexis, Little Michelle, and Little Daddy - won at first asking earlier in the year. The Flying Pidgeon would be his first stakes win as a trainer.
“It’s been great,” Vaccarezza said. “We beat some very nice horses, and we’ve got a bunch of 3-year-olds here that I think we have a beautiful future with. My life has become a circle – my house, the racetrack, and the restaurant.”
While training is not a laid-back job to begin with, having a horse with Little Mike’s credentials in the barn brings with it some added pressure, and Vaccarezza did not get off to the smoothest of starts with his horse. Two weeks ago, there was a dispute over a blood draw that was taken from Little Mike for out-of-competition testing at Churchill Downs. It upset Vaccarezza to the degree that he decided to scratch his horse from the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day.
“Usually, I’m 100 percent on board with out-of-competition testing,” Vaccarezza said. “I was very cooperative, and I wasn’t against (the blood draw). What I was upset about was the way it was done. The best thing was to just move him out of there.”
Vaccarezza also said his decision had nothing to do with the results of the test.
“I wasn’t afraid of the test,” he said. “I wanted to know the results, for my own sake, and everything came back negative. I have an email with an official release from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and it says that all out-of-competition tests for (that day) were negative, and that includes the sample collected from Little Mike.”
Since returning from Kentucky, Little Mike has trained well. In addition to his routine gallops, the horse stays fit by receiving daily 20-minute treatments in Vaccarezza’s own Equine Spa, a machine used for cold salt hydrotherapy. “It’s a new system – a saltwater spa that is incorporated with a chiller that brings the temperature of the water to 34 degrees,” Vaccarezza explained.
Little Mike will face a field in the Flying Pidgeon that includes Miami Mile (G3) winner Grand Tito as well as Padilla and Hakama, who have each won allowance races at Gulfstream in the past two months. Also in the entries are stakes winner Balino, Mellow Fellow, and Argentine Tango. Csaba and Kings Over are entered for main track only.
“He’s doing phenomenal – just really, really well,” Vaccarezza said. “He lost a lot of weight on the return trip from Hong Kong, but he’s gained all of that back. He’s at the top of his game, and this should be a great prep race for the Manhattan (G1) on Belmont Stakes Day (June 7). I think he’s going to run huge.”