Vaccarezza justifies Little Mike switch

Carlo Vaccarezza insists it was a “very easy decision” to switch his American raider Little Mike to the Dubai Duty Free after missing out on a much-prized place in the Dubai World Cup field.

By (Alex Leach)

Published: Wed 27 Mar 2013, 12:49 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:06 AM

The six-year-old bay gelding underperformed in his prep race at Meydan with Kieren Fallon aboard 17 days ago, when he finished eighth and six and three-quarter lengths behind outright winner Hunter’s Light.

That performance has raised some question marks over Little Mike’s ability to perform on the all-weather Tapeta surface here and ultimately led to his trainer Dale Romans and breeder/owner Vaccarezza to switch him back to the turf over 1,800m on Saturday night.

“With the last race we ran here on March 9th, Dale Romans and I decided to run Little Mike over a mile and a quarter on the Tapeta,” the amiable Italian explained.

“If the horse had run the way we thought he was going to on that all-weather surface, it would have left us the option to run him in the Dubai World Cup.

“Unfortunately though, Little Mike didn’t run the way we expected him to and we’re here now to run in the Dubai Duty Free. It was a very easy decision just to get a horse like Little Mike to run back on the turf. “He’s ready. That prep race has sharpened him up big time.”

Vaccarezza’s runner could still make an appearance though in the sport’s showpiece event in 2014, with a change of jockey likely to be the only alteration to this year’s arrangements.

“I told Dale on Monday morning that – if I’m lucky enough to bring Little Mike again to Dubai – I’m going to do it the same way,” Vaccarezza said. “I’m going to run him again on the Tapeta in the same race over a mile and a quarter, but this time, if – as I hope – Ramon Dominguez is healthy, I will bring him for the prep race.

“I’m not criticising Kieren Fallon. Kieren is a great friend of mine and he’s a great jockey, but his style of riding didn’t fit Little Mike.

“With the way Kieren was just kind of bouncing on Little Mike, he got him a little confused.

“Little Mike is not a horse that likes to be rushed, pulled and then rushed again. If you want to run on Little Mike, you have to let him go and that’s it. I don’t think Kieren was well-informed or well-prepared to ride him that particular day, but it’s not his fault.”

Little Mike may take on Wise Dan at Woodford

Little Mike may go head-to-head against Wise Dan in May’s Group One Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day to finally settle the debate as to which six-year-old gelding is better on turf, according to his breeder/owner Carlo Vaccarezza.

Both Little Mike and Wise Dan have been nominated to appear Stateside in the sporting spectacle, alongside Point of Entry and another runner at this weekend’s Dubai World Cup in Animal Kingdom.

Wise Dan stormed to the 2012 Horse of the Year honours at the Eclipse Awards ceremony back in January, when his 194 votes left him well clear of the rest of the well-beaten field, including fifth-placed Little Mike with six. Dubai World Cup contender Royal Delta and modern-day legend Frankel sandwiched Little Mike in fourth and sixth position respectively having garnered just eight votes and one.

Morton Fink’s horse also significantly bettered Vaccarezza’s in the ‘four-year-old & up male’ (139-4) and ‘male turf (three-year-old & up)’ (170-78) categories, leading the latter to propose a spring showdown to decide the issue once and for all.

“I was really upset about the Eclipse Award,” admitted Vaccarezza after Little Mike won three Group One races – the Woodford Reserve, Arlington Million and the Breeders’ Cup Turf – last year. “The horse won the three most prestigious races in America and we didn’t get the Eclipse Award? Don’t get wrong – Wise Dan is a fantastic horse and I’ve got a lot of respect for them. “But, he won three races going a mile, a mile and a mile on the turf and they weren’t such great races.Little Mike won the three biggest races and they gave the Eclipse Award to Wise Dan?

“I would like to face him one day. There’s an outside possibility that we may run against him.

“If Little Mike comes back, we may go and run him in the Woodford Reserve, even though we have only 35 days between the Dubai Duty Free and that race. If – for whatever crazy reason, Little Mike doesn’t run well (in the Dubai Duty Free here) but comes back fine – I’m going to run him in the Woodford Reserve.”

Back-to-back victories in the emirate and at Churchill Downs would also go a long way to improving Little Mike’s standing in the equine world. “When Little Mike wins, nobody talks about him,” he added. “When Little Mike won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Classic, all of the headlines said: ‘Why Point Of Entry and St Nicholas Abbey lost the race.’

“Little Mike never gets the credit that he is due because nobody believes in him. My wife (Priscilla) says it is because his name is Little Mike and maybe the ‘Little’ means people have little respect for the horse.

“What else do you have to do? When you win the three most prestigious races in America, you have to get a little respect you know?”

— Alex Leach

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