Little Mike has pulled off a big upset
in the $US3 million ($A2.9 million), Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
The five-year-old gelding, trained by Dale Romans, sat off the pace set by
Turbo Compressor, but under jockey Ramon Dominguez seized the lead in the
straight and held off odds-on favourite Point of Entry and the fast-closing
St Nicholas Abbey, who was trying to retain the title he won at Churchill Downs
Dominguez said the 1-1/2 miles (2400m) on Saturday (Sunday AEDT) barred him from committing to the lead earlier.
“I did get a great trip right off the leaders,” Dominguez said.
“When I asked him to run, he gave me a great kick.”
It was what Romans had hoped for when he opted to extend his distance range.
“We had been trying to stretch him out all year, so we decided to stick to
our plan,” Romans said.
“We talked over the race last night and thought those
two horses (Turbo Compressor and Optimizer) would be gunning for the lead. We
were going to try to sit right off of them. He showed he could rate.
“He’s always been an over achiever, but he does deserve to be champion.”
Point of Entry’s jockey John Velazquez said his mount suffered from a
collision at the start.
“I got slammed coming out of the gate,” he said. “And the horse in front of
me kept coming in and out. By the time I got out, it was too late. He (Point of
Entry) was by far the best horse in the race.”
Since his Turf triumph at Churchill Downs last year, St Nicholas Abbey has
won just once, in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.
He was never a factor in finishing 11th in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on
October 7 but trainer Aidan O’Brien hoped the firm turf track at Santa Anita
would suit him better.
Joseph O’Brien, whose victory last year aboard St Nicholas Abbey had made
him the youngest jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race, said his horse ran well,
but just didn’t have quite enough.
“The trip was a good one for me,” he said. “He relaxed well off a fast
pace. When I asked him, he responded. We had to go a bit wide on the turn, but
nonetheless he ran very well.”