Little NIck Starts 2012 with Breeders' Cup Hopes
By Leona Velazquez
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - In the game of horse racing the opportunities to get a horse from the claiming ranks to stakes company are few and far between. But trainer Anthony Quartarolo has done just that with Little Nick, a seven year old bay gelding. When the son of Tiger Ridge enters the starting gate this Sunday, January 15, in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint, he will be making his fifth stakes start for Quartarolo.
Charles J. Palombini claimed Little Nick for $25,000 on September 10, 2010 out of a 5 1/2 furlong grass claimer at Monmouth Park. While racing for Palombini and Quartarolo, Little Nick has a record of 4-2-1 from nine starts. To date, Palombini has quadrupled his investment.
In 2010 Little Nick had two starts under Quartarolo’s care, a fourth place finish in a six furlong allowance race at Belmont Park and a victory in the Basket Weave, a six furlong stake also run at Belmont Park. Quartarolo then gave the gelding some time off to prepare for his 2011 campaign.
He started the year with a two length victory at Tampa Bay Downs in a 5 furlong allowance race. Quartarolo brought him back a month later, February 19 to make his second stakes appearance when he ran in the Turf Dash at Tampa. He finished seventh, beaten only 2 ½ lengths.
“Unfortunately, the rider checked him out of that race,” Quartarolo said. “I’m not knocking him; I don’t like to do that. I know how difficult there job is, making a decision in a couple of seconds but you can’t check a horse back when going five furlongs. (The jockey) came back and apologized to us, so he realizes it was the wrong decision. I think he (Little Nick) probably could have finished second in that race, especially since he came back and finished second to Bridgetown.”
Little Nick finished second to Bridgetown in an allowance event here at Gulfstream Park on March 18. In that 5 furlong race, he stalked and was only beat a length and a quarter. His next start was scheduled as a five furlong grass race under allowance conditions, but it was run on the dirt. The five year old gelding finished second by 3 ½ lengths.
“Well, it was an hour to post time for that race and all of a sudden it started to rain,” commented Quartarolo. “We ran him, but it’s (dirt) not his game. Paco (Lopez) said he just doesn’t grab a hold of the dirt like he does the turf. But, he came out of the race fine.”
Quartarolo then tried to stretch Little Nick out a bit, running him at a mile in a Grade 3 stake at Calder in late April. He ran a solid third, beaten three quarters of a length, trying to wire the field.
“I ran him back at a mile. He’s not a one dimensional horse, he is ratable, but, I thought he was the only speed in there and speed holds well at Calder,” said Quartarolo. “I think he probably could have won if I had another two turn race in him.”
The Florida bred came back on May 14 with a 3 ½ length stakes victory in the 5 furlong Champali at Calder. He was then given some time off before returning to the races in late December.
“We freshened him up,” said Quartarolo. “He has a lot of issues, physical problems. So, we do a lot of therapy with him in the barn. We were looking for an easy spot to run him back and Tampa called saying that race would fill. So Paco went over there to ride him. He runs tremendous fresh.”
Little Nick did not disappoint when he scored a length victory at Tampa Bay in a five furlong allowance race and he continues to do well since that race.
“He came out of the race great,” commented Quartarolo. “He even put on some more weight. He’s an unbelievable horse, so smart. He’s all business. He stays at Calder to train because it’s quiet over there. I take him out late to keep him calm and relaxed.”
It seems as if Quartarolo’s hard work and perseverance have paid off. His connections now hope that their success will continue with Little Nick and that 2012 will hold the ultimate prize.
“I’m going to try to be more selective with him this year,” Quartarolo says. “I’m hoping to run him again on the grass here in March. Then give him some time off…run him in the Parx Dash in July, which is a win and you’re in (to the Breeders’ Cup). Then a race in September and hopefully if he stays together, we can run him in the Breeders’ Cup.”