By MICHAEL COMPTON
Little Mike is quite the fan favorite at Gulfstream Park. And why not? The 5-year-old son of former Florida sire Spanish Steps is seeking his fifth consecutive victory over the Gulfstream Park lawn on Saturday as he headlines the Canadian Turf Stakes (G3) over his favorite distance of one mile.Bred by Carlo Vaccarezza, Little Mike races for his wife, Priscilla, and is trained by Dale Romans. Jockey Joe Bravo, his regular rider, is back aboard on Saturday. Little Mike totes a $495,670 bankroll into the race. He is a winner in nine of 15 lifetime and has emerged victorious in five of six appearances over the Gulfstream lawn.
“It’s unbelievable, not only the amount of money he’s made, but the races he won and how he won them. He basically became the most popular horse in Florida,” said breeder Carlo Vaccarezza. “When you see him go to the track and when he comes back to the winner’s circle, people break into an ovation. It’s a blessing to have a horse like him.”
Little Mike has flashed customary early zip in winning two races at the current stand. He led an optional claiming field wire to wire in December in his first start back since last April’s Appleton Stakes (G3). He followed that effort with another wire-to-wire score in the Sunshine Millions Turf, where he held Slews Answer at bay to win that $150,000 fixture.
“His will to win…there are very few horses in the industry that have that,” said Vaccarezza, a New York native who now resides in Parkland.
Little Mike’s speed and tenacious will to win has made him a fan a favorite.
“He’s a very unusual horse that doesn’t come around often, especially when you don’t breed to the Storm Cats or the Giant’s Causeways of the world and you breed a mare that was in your backyard,” Vaccarezza said. “This horse is a special horse, even though he’s not a nicely bred horse…by Spanish Steps out of a Wavering Monarch mare.”
As far as Little Mike’s chances go on Saturday, Carlo offers his take.
“It’s a really nice field. I think we’re the class of the race, but you never know,” Vaccarezza said. “One thing is for sure, if they go in 48 or 49 (seconds) for the half, he’ll be tough to beat.”