Record time for the distance at Santa Anita is 2:22.80, set by 3-year-old Hawkster in 1989, which also stands as the world record. The Hawkster time was taken in fifths of a second.
A 17-1 shot off a fifth-place finish for trainer Dale Romans in the Sept. 29 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) won by Point of Entry, Little Mike raced up close in third along the rail behind a pace set by the flying Turbo Compressor. The United Nations (gr. IT) winner went winging along through a quarter in :23.83, a half in :46.77, and three-quarters in 1:10.80 with Optimizer just off his outside flank.
After a mile in 1:35.28 Turbo Compressor began to tire, and jockey Ramon Dominguez shifted his 5-year-old Spanish Steps gelding just to the frontrunner's outside entering the turn. Little Mike responded nicely, taking the lead into the stretch and holding it against Point of Entry's late turn of foot.
"Today it's a mile and a half; he's a phenomenal horse," Romans said. "He's an overachiever and he's proven us all wrong. I don't think anybody up here thought he could be more than a miler last year and now we don't know where his limit is."
Little Mike paid $36.60, $12.20, and $7.80 while Point of Entry brought $4.20 and $3. Defending Turf victor St Nicholas Abbey returned $3.80 while three-quarters of a length back.
Bred in Florida by Carlo Vaccarezza and owned by Priscilla Vaccarezza, Little Mike is out of the Wavering Monarch mare Hay Jude. The victory improved his career record to 12-2-1 from 21 starts with earnings of $3,074,412.
"When no one believes in Little Mike, he does it," Priscilla Vaccarezza said. "When he's not the favorite and no one thinks he can do the extra distance and when I'm nervous and don't think he has a chance, he wins! Maybe they will give him some respect after that, I don't know. Maybe because his name is Little Mike!"