Little Mike runs away with the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.<br><a target="blank" href="!i=1830421187&k=BKgmhFK">Order This Photo</a>

Little Mike runs away with the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.
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Skip Dickstein

Little Mike Takes Turf Classic in Big Effort

The gelding wired the field in the grade I event on the Churchill turf May 5.

Little Mike caught a tough group of competitors by surprise with a wire-to-wire upset victory in the $561,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs May 5 (VIDEO).

Ridden by Joe Bravo for owner Priscilla Vaccarezza and trainer Dale Romans, Little Mike grabbed the lead from post 1 in the 1 1/8-mile turf test and nursed a lead through fractions of :23.78, :48.27, and 1:12.81 when a potential pace war failed to develop. Bravo asked Little Mike for more run on the far turn, and he opened by 3 1/2 lengths at mid-stretch.

Slim Shadey, who raced in sixth and seventh along the hedge for most of the race, found room along the inside to better the favored closers in the race and captured second, 2 1/2 lengths behind Little Mike, at 10-1. Brilliant Speed closed for third, a half length behind Slim Shadey and a nosed in front of Doubles Partner.

Little Mike, a three-time grade III winner going into the Turf Classic, was dismissed at 12-1 and completed the distance in 1:48.81 on a course rated good. He paid $26.40 to win and capped a $403.60 exacta (1-5).

Favored Turallure was far back early and finished seventh with a mild rally. Second choice Doubles Partner seemed perfectly placed a few lengths off the lead but didn’t fire in the lane and checked in fourth. Turbo Compressor  and Get Stormy  were up close early but faded to finish eighth and ninth, respectively.

“I thought he was the fastest horse in the race, period,” Romans said of the winner. “I didn’t know if he could go as far as he needed to, but we weren’t going to take back. He had a condylar fracture last year, so this is a pretty sweet victory for Little Mike.

“He’s a super horse and he deserves this grade I (victory).”

“I’ve been riding for 24 years and I can’t say a horse will stick out more in my mind than Little Mike will,” said Bravo, the gelding’s regular rider. “Who says there wasn’t a question about him getting the distance? I had a lot of questions, but Little Mike speaks.”

Little Mike, a 5-year-old gelding by Spanish Steps out of the Wavering Monarch mare Hey Jude, was bred in Florida by Carlo Vaccarezza. He now has 10 wins in 17 starts and earnings of $830,412.