Little Mike won the 2011 Canadian Turf by 1 1/2 lengths.

Little Mike won the 2011 Canadian Turf by 1 1/2 lengths.

Coglianese Photos

Little Mike Out to Defend Canadian Turf Title

Gulfstream Park standout goes for fifth straight over course against seven opponents.

Little Mike goes for his fifth consecutive win when he attempts to defend his title in the $150,000 Canadian Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) over the Gulfstream Park turf course he favors March 3.

Priscilla Vaccarezza’s gutty 5-year-old gelding is the 2-1 morning line favorite as he takes on seven opponents in the one-mile event.

Trained by Dale Romans, the front-running Little Mike went gate to wire to win last year's Canadian Turf by 1 1/2 lengths. That started the current winning streak for the bay son of Spanish Steps, who is 5-for-6 lifetime over the Gulfstream layout.

Following a victory in the Appleton Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream last April, Little Mike was being pointed to the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs but sustained a cracked shin and was sidelined for more than eight months. He returned Dec. 22 with a game allowance victory at Gulfstream and followed that with another front-running tally in the Sunshine Millions Turf Jan. 28.

Regular jockey Joe Bravo will be aboard Little Mike, who breaks from the far outside post with 119 pounds. Little Mike has won nine of 15 lifetime starts and paces the field with earnings of $495,670.

Mutual Trust, pegged at 3-1, leads the remainder of the field in the Canadian Turf, which is the 10th race on the Gulfstream program with a 5:17 p.m. EST post.

Juddmonte Farms’ 4-year-old English homebred was bounced around in the stretch of his United States debut in the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (gr. IIIT) Jan. 14 at Gulfstream. The favorite at 9-5 in the 12-horse field, he finished sixth (moved up to fifth via disqualification), though he was beaten by just 1 3/4 lengths in a rough finish.

J.L. Castanon is named to ride the son of Cacique for trainer Bill Mott. Mutual Trust, who will shoulder top weight of 121 pounds, won three of five starts in France last year for trainer Andre Fabre. The dark bay scored his biggest victory in the Prix Jean Prat (Fr-I) at Chantilly last July. He was unplaced behind Immortal Verse and Goldikova in the Prix Jacques le Marois (Fr-I) at Deauville in mid-August.

The Canadian Turf marks the return of WinStar Farm's dual graded stakes winner Doubles Partner (4-1) after an absence of nearly 10 months. The 5-year-old son of Rock Hard Ten has not raced since a game third-place effort in the Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill May 7 when he finished one length behind Get Stormy .

Todd Pletcher trains the Florida-bred bay, who will have Julien Leparoux back at the controls. Doubles Partner won the Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT) prior to the Turf Classic and also captured the American Turf Stakes (gr. IIT) at Churchill as a 3-year-old.

Stuart Janney III's Data Link  (6-1) puts his 3-for-3 record over the Gulfstream turf on the line as he makes his graded stakes debut for trainer Shug McGaughey. Alex Solis will be aboard the 4-year-old War Front  colt once again.

Data Link comes into the race off a 2 3/4-length win in a one-mile optional claimer over the course Dec. 4. He had problems with a soft course at Belmont Park prior to that, finishing a well-beaten fourth in the Shady Character overnight stakes.

“It was just a bog at Belmont that day,” said McGaughey. “It looks like its going to be firm Saturday, which is what we’d like to see, but if it rained I think we’d be all right. We’ll look to keep him in middle distance races for now. We have several nice turf horses (such as Boisterous  and Air Support) and we’ll spot them around.”

Completing the field are Beau Choix , Trend, Seruni, and Perfect Footprint.

$150,000 Canadian Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 10, 5:17 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Doubles Partner (FL), J R Leparoux, 117, T A Pletcher, 4/1
2. Mutual Trust (GB), J L Castanon, 121, W I Mott, 3/1
3. Beau Choix (KY), J Rocco Jr., 117, B Tagg, 8/1
4. Data Link (KY), A O Solis, 117, C R McGaughey III, 6/1
5. Trend (KY), P Lopez, 117, M R Frostad, 12/1
6. Seruni (KY), J K Court, 119, P J Oliver, 8/1
7. Perfect Footprint (KY), M Pinto, 117, D J Figueroa, 20/1
8.  Little Mike (FL), J Bravo, 119, D L Romans, 2/1