Carlo Vaccarezza, owner and breeder of Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Little Mike, said the Spanish Steps gelding will be pointed to the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-IT) March 30 at Meydan Racecourse.
Contested on the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) card, the Sheema Classic is a 2,410-meter (about 1 ½ miles) turf race that never has been won by a U.S.-trained horse. The most recent horse bred in the U.S. to win the race is 2002 winner Nayef, bred in Kentucky by Shadwell Farm.
But Florida-bred Little Mike has defied the odds before. He won three grade I races in the U.S. this season, stretching out each time. Trained by Dale Romans, he took the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs going 1 1/8 miles before defeating international competition in both the Arlington Million Stakes at 1 1/4 miles and the Breeders’ Cup Turf going 1 1/2 miles at Santa Anita Park.
“People never believed in this horse," Vaccarezza said. "He’d win at a mile and people would say, ‘Let’s see what he does at a mile and an eighth. He won at (that distance) at Churchill Downs and his jockey, Joe Bravo—who I still love—took off the mount when he went to the mile and a quarter in the Arlington Million. He wanted to ride Turbo Compressor at Saratoga. He didn’t believe in the horse. But here comes Little Mike again and he won.”
Little Mike then won the BC Turf at odds of 17-1.
“They thought we were really crazy when we went to one and a half miles, but he did it again,” Vaccarezza said.
Little Mike is the first U.S.-trained horse to win the Arlington Million since Gio Ponti in 2009 and he's the first U.S.-trained horse to win the Turf since English Channel in 2007. The 5-year-old bay is the only U.S.-based horse to win the Million and the Turf in the same season; the only other U.S.-trained horse to win the Million and the Turf is Manila, who won the 1986 Turf and 1987 Million.
Vacarrezza said the plan is for Little Mike to prepare for the Sheema Classic with a start at Gulfstream Park.
Meanwhile, Romans told DubaiRaceNight.com that Pacific Classic (gr. I) winner Dullahan would be pointed to the Dubai World Cup. Meydan features Tapeta footings and Dullahan has won three of three starts on synthetic surfaces. Those races are all grade I stakes: the Pacific Classic, Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, and Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity.
Romans is still deciding on whether the Even the Score colt, who is campaigned by Donegal Racing, would receive a prep race before the World Cup.