Little Mike wins Breeders' Cup Turf
ARCADIA, California (AFP) –
Little Mike pulled off a big upset Saturday in the $3 million, 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf.
The 5-year-old gelding, trained by Dale Romans, sat off the pace set by Turbo Compressor, but under jockey Ramon Dominguez seized the lead in the closing straight and held off odds-on favorite Point of Entry and fast-closing St Nicholas Abbey, who was trying to retain the title he won at Churchill Downs last year.
Japanese raider Trailblazer bid for the lead in the straight but settled for fourth.
Little Mike was fourth off the turn for home.
Dominguez said the distance barred him from committing to the lead earlier.
“I did get a great trip right off the leaders,” he said. “When I asked him to run, he gave me a great kick.”
It was what Romans had hoped for when he opted for the 1 1/2-mile race.
“We had been trying to stretch him out all year, so we decided to stick to our plan,” Romans said. “We talked over the race last night and thought those two horses (Turbo Compressor and Optimizer) would be gunning for the lead. We were going to try to sit right off of them. He showed he could rate.
“He’s always been an overachiever, but he does deserve to be champion.”
Point of Entry jockey John Velazquez said his mount suffered from a collision at the start.
“I got slammed coming out of the gate,” he said. “And the horse in front of me kept coming in and out. By the time I got out, it was too late. He (Point of Entry) was by far the best horse in the race.”
Since his Turf triumph at Churchill Downs last year, St Nicholas Abbey had won just once, in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.
He was never a factor in finishing 11th in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on October 7, but trainer Aidan O’Brien hoped the firm turf track at Santa Anita would suit him better.
Joseph O’Brien, whose victory last year aboard St Nicholas Abbey had made him the youngest jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race, said his horse ran well, but just didn’t have quite enough.
“The trip was a good one for me,” he said. “He relaxed well off a fast pace. When I asked him, he responded. We had to go a bit wide on the turn, but nonetheless he ran very well.”
Another European hope, Shareta, finished fifth with Christophe Lemaire in the irons.
“She made a good run, but she couldn’t get them,” Lemaire said.