Grade 1 winner Little Mike retired at 9

Owner-trainer Carlo Vaccarezza said Friday that he has retired his four-time Grade 1 winner Little Mike, who will live out the remainder of his days at Old Friends Farm in Kentucky

“He left Palm Meadows this morning and arrives at Old Friends at 6 tomorrow morning,” said Vaccarezza, who will be on hand to greet his old friend when he walks off the van. “Age finally caught up to him. He came out of his race fine, but the last few days he just didn’t seem to have the same energy level he has had when training these past weeks and months. He came back blowing yesterday after a routine gallop, he wasn’t his usual rambunctious self, and kind of looked at me and told me it was over. The one thing I can say is that he retired 100 percent sound.”

Little Mike, a 9-year-old son of Spanish Steps named after Vaccarezza’s oldest son, retires with 14 wins in 30 starts and earnings of more than $3.5 million. His most notable victories came in 2012, when he captured both the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Arlington Million for trainer Dale Romans.

Vaccarezza took over as trainer in 2014, sending Little Mike out to his final victory in the Flying Pidgeon Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The final start of his career came earlier this month when Little Mike returned from a 26-month layoff to finish fourth in an allowance race at Gulfstream.

“He was everything to me and my family,” said Vaccarezza. “To have a horse that won all those Grade 1’s, who took me and my family around the world to meet so many people, it’s like a dream come true. Horses like him don’t come along that often, especially one like him with blue-collar breeding, whose dam we rescued from going to the killers. Needless to say, it was a very emotional scene this morning at the barn, with my sons both there with me to watch him leave. It just broke our hearts to see him go after all he’s meant to all of us over the years.”

Tom Franklin is a senior contributor at US Racing.
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