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updated: 8/14/2013 7:07 PM

Big plans for Arlington Million's defending champ

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  • Little Mike, who won the 2012 Arlington Million with jockey Ramon Dominguez aboard, poses with owner Carlo Vaccarezza.

       Little Mike, who won the 2012 Arlington Million with jockey Ramon Dominguez aboard, poses with owner Carlo Vaccarezza.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 

In a perfect world, breeder and owner Carlo Vaccarezza's schedule for his 6-year-old gelding Little Mike -- the defending Arlington Million champion -- would look a little something like this:

Become the first horse to win consecutive Millions come Saturday evening, and then in say, a month or so, compete in a match race against Wise Dan, the 1-mile specialist who is the reigning Horse of the Year as well as Male Turf Horse of the Year, maybe even right back at Arlington.

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Yep, you heard that right, a match race -- on the turf.

"I would love to win this race and then challenge Wise Dan to a match race at 118 miles or 1 miles -- let's meet halfway," Vaccarezza said Wednesday during the post position draw at the WGN TV studios. "If not for anything else, I think it would be good for racing.

"And forget about the money. I think it would be phenomenal for racing. And give the purse to the PDJF (Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund)."

After getting snubbed at the 2012 Eclipse Awards in the Male Turf division, Vaccarezza has a point to make with his horse, who won 4 of his 7 starts on the turf last year.

"It was a shame what they did last year with the Eclipse Award," he said of Little Mike, who runs in his wife Priscilla's name. "This is a horse that won the three most prestigious (Grade I) turf races in the United States.

"He won the Woodford Reserve (at Churchill Downs) at 118 miles, he won the Arlington Million going 1 miles and he won the BC Turf Classic (Santa Anita) going 1 miles, and then Wise Dan won three (Grade I turf) races going a mile, a mile and a mile and he gets the Eclipse Award for Turf Horse of the Year? I don't see the common sense there.

"Don't get me wrong, Wise Dan is a tremendous horse. He should've been Horse of the Year. But Turf Horse of the Year? I will argue with anybody about that."

As a 5-year-old in 2012, Wise Dan won five races from six starts. After losing the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap on dirt at Churchill by a head, he won four consecutive races on turf: the Grade II Fourstardave at Saratoga; the Grade I Woodbine Mile; the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, and the Grade I Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

"There's so much bias for Wise Dan," Vaccarezza said. "I mean he's a great horse, but ..."

Vaccarezza said he hasn't brought up the match race concept to the connections of Wise Dan, but if they ever gave it their OK, he'd be there in a second.

"Of course. I hope they hear from me now," he said. "I would do it any place they want to do it. Let's do it at Churchill, Gulfstream, here at Arlington, whatever, I'm not afraid.

"And if I win (the Million), I'm going to chase them. And I'm going to see if I enter Little Mike where they enter Wise Dan, if they're going to scratch him. Then we'll really know."

But first things first for Little Mike, whose 2013 campaign began with a couple of subpar performances in Dubai followed by an ankle injury and then a return to the States with a fourth-place finish in the Grade I United Nations at Monmouth Park in July.

"The horse is training phenomenally," Vaccarezza said. "The horse is at the peak of his career. I think he's going to come back and run huge.

"He's doing great. There is no excuse (if he doesn't run well). The track here, they're not expecting rain and he loves a really hard racetrack. We have Joel Rosario aboard and I don't think you can have a better rider in this country than Rosario."

Little Mike drew post position No. 11 and will go off as the 5-1 third choice in the field of 13. The morning-line 7-2 favorite is Grandeur with Indy Point the 9-2 second choice in a field that has a large contingent of European invaders.

"I'm more afraid of (trainer) Chad Brown's horse (Real Solution) than any other horse in the field," Vaccarezza said.

But in the end, Vaccarezza is confident Little Mike will have a lot to say about the outcome of the 31st running of the Million.

"You have to be careful of Little Mike because if you let Little Mike go loose on the lead you might not catch him," he said. "We drew the 11-hole and that's probably perfect, so we'll see what (jockey) Joel Rosario is going to do with him. If no one else is going to go, then we're going to go."

•Marketing Mix was installed as the 2-1 favorite for the 24th edition of the Beverly D. Irish invader Duntle is the 3-1 second choice in the field of 9 fillies and mares ... The Secretariat Stakes figures to be a wide-open affair with Jack Milton a lukewarm 3-1 ML favorite in the field of 13 3-year-olds.

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