Little Mike came out of his comeback race Sunday at Gulfstream Park in good shape and will be pointed to a $75,000 restricted turf stakes on Aug. 6 at the south Florida track
Trainer Carlo Vaccarezza, who bred and owns Little Mike with his wife, Priscilla, said early Monday by phone that he was disappointed with the fifth-place finish in the allowance race by Little Mike but is willing to give the 9-year-old gelding “one more chance to show what he can do.”
Little Mike, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Arlington Million in 2012, was making his first start since May 2014. The bay gelding has won 14 times and earned more than $3.5 million from 30 career starts.
Sent away an 11-10 favorite in a field of seven, Little Mike and jockey Elvis Trujillo went to the early lead from post 1 in the 1 1/16-mile turf race Sunday. Midway down the backstretch, several horses moved to challenge to his outside, and although still in the hunt while closest to the rail with a quarter-mile remaining, Little Mike beat a steady fade down the stretch to finish 5 1/4 lengths behind the winner, Gentlmens Agrement, the 5-2 second choice trained by Leo Gabriel Jr. Little Mike earned a 74 Beyer Speed Figure.
“Bottom line is that three things hurt him,” said Vaccarezza. “I wasn’t crazy about the ride. Second was the long layoff. And third is his age. It’s hard enough to bring a 4- or 5-year-old back from a year layoff, so can you imagine how hard it is to bring a 9-year-old back off 26 months?
“He came back tired, but he is on his toes and ate everything up. He looked magnificent before the race, he really did. Everyone was complimenting him. People were clapping for him in the paddock. There was a lot of excitement.
“The race was disappointing, but I’m going to treat it basically like it was three works. I’ll give him a couple of breezes before the next race and see how he does. This race is going to really tighten him up, I believe, and the timing into the next one is good. All the big races are out of the equation. He’s going to retire to Old Friends in the future. That’s already set. Michael Blowen is expecting him. We’ll run the horse one more time, and if it doesn’t work, that’s where he’ll go.”
The targeted race, the $75,000 Eight Miles East, is part of the Florida Sires Stakes program on Aug. 6. It’s a 1 1/16-mile turf race restricted to Florida-breds.
Tyler Gaffalione enjoyed a memorable Saturday by riding five winners on the 12-race card. The 21-year-old Florida native has taken the early lead over Emisael Jaramillo and Luca Panici atop the jockey standings at the summer meet, which began July 1 and runs through Oct. 1.
All five of his winners were favorites sent away no higher than 6-5 odds.
It was the second five-win day for Gaffalione, with the first coming last Sept. 20, when all five winners came for trainer Ralph Nicks. Gaffalione won the 2015 Eclipse Award for top apprentice and lost his weight allowance in October. His agent is Walter Blum Jr.
The lone allowance on a nine-race Thursday card at Gulfstream is part of a Rainbow 6 sequence (races 4-9) offering a carryover jackpot that stood at $68,674 with the conclusion of Sunday racing. The $43,000 feature is carded as the eighth race and has the uncoupled Nicks pair of Cult Classic and Chocolate Chippi as top contenders in a field of six filly-and-mare sprinters. First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.
There are no stakes scheduled for the weekend. In fact, the next stakes day is Florida Sires Stakes Day on Aug. 6.