Little Mike heads west for Shoemaker Mile
Little Mike will try to make it consecutive Grade I victories on turf when he makes his California debut in the $300,000 Shoemaker Mile Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The Shoemaker Mile is the more lucrative of two Grade I events being offered Saturday. Defending champion Smiling Tiger and The Factor head the field in the $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap, which is run at seven furlongs over Cushion Track. The Triple Bend is the sixth of 10 while the Shoemaker is the ninth.
Post time is 1 p.m. Track gates at Betfair Hollywood Park will open at 9:55 a.m. for simulcasts.
Won a year ago by New York shipper Courageous Cat, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In’’ race. The Breeders’ Cup nominated winner will receive automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Mile, which will be run Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. Additionally, both pre-entry and entry fees will be waived and the owner will receive a $10,000 travel stipend.
Owned by Priscilla Vaccarezza, the wife of breeder Carlo Vaccarezza, and trained by Dale Romans, Little Mike has won five of his last six, including a gate-to-wire upset in the Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 5 at Churchill Downs.
The appearance was only the second in a Grade I – he finished sixth in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap Feb. 5, 2011 – for the Spanish Steps gelding and he responded with the 12-1 surprise, winning by 2 ½ lengths.
Out of the Wavering Monarch mare Hay Jude, Little Mike has won 10 off 17 and earned $830,412. He’s won six of eight at the Shoemaker distance and is 5-for-7 since joining the Romans barn some 17 months ago.
The Florida bred could provide Romans with his second Shoemaker Mile win in four years. The trainer scored with 9-1 outsider Thorn Song for owner Ahmed Zayat in 2009.
Defeated as the odds-on favorite in consecutive starts, Mr. Commons will be aiming for his first Grade I victory for owner-breeder St. George Farm Racing LLC and trainer John Shirreffs.
The Artie Schiller colt out of the Apalachee mare Joustabout was runner-up behind longshot Wilkinson, who was forced to miss the Shoemaker after coming down with colic more than a week ago, in the Grade II American Handicap May 26 in his first race over the Betfair Hollywood Park turf.
This loss came nearly three months after he was second behind Willyconker in the Grade I Kilroe Mile March 3 at Santa Anita. Worse than second only once in eight starts at the Shoemaker distance, Mr. Commons is 5-for-13 with a bankroll of $653,660.
Jeranimo was an easy winner of the Grade II Citation Handicap the last time he tried the local grass, winning by 2 ¾ lengths as the 17-10 favorite last Nov. 26.
Owned by B.J. Wright and trained by Mike Pender, Jeranimo has won seven of 27 and would become a millionaire if he prevails Saturday. The 6-year-old Congaree horse out of the Jeblar mare Jera has earned $888,400.
Corporate Jungle will arrive from the opposite coast with a three race win streak for owners Gary and Mary West and trainer Chad Brown.
A 4-year-old Giant’s Causeway colt out of the Carson City mare Lady Carson, Corporate Jungle began his current roll with an allowance victory Feb. 18 at Gulfstream Park, followed by a 2 ¼ length win in the Grade III Appleton – also at Gulfstream – and a half-length decision over Successful Mission when the 7-10 favorite in the Elkwood May 19 at Monmouth Park.
California will be the fifth different state – following Florida, Kentucky, New York and New Jersey – in which Corporate Jungle, who has won four of seven and earned $172,260, has run.
The lightly-raced gelding Dubai You X Y Z will be making his initial stakes appearance for owner-breeder M T Racing Stable LLC and trainer Mark Tsagalakis. The 5-year-old E Dubai gelding out of the Theatrical mare My Vincero has won five of six and banked $137,400. He returned from a layoff of more than a year to win a $62,350 allowance April 27 over the Betfair Hollywood Park grass.
Claimed for $50,000 Feb. 25 at Golden Gate by trainer Blaine Wright for Chappell Alpine Farms LLC, Hudson Landing has subsequently won three of four, including the Grade III San Francisco April 28.
The 5-year-old gelded son of Maria’s Mon and the Shotiche mare Morning Star has won 10 of 30 and earned $385,688.
Liberian Freighter is hoping to improve upon his sixth place finish in the 2011 Shoemaker for Shawn Dugan, California Horse Racing Board member Charles Winner and the Estate of breeder Ed Nahem and Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale.
The 7-year-old California bred son of Bertrando and the Slewpy mare Anachristina has won 10 of 30 and earned $754,740. He’s won five of 12 over the local grass.
A win by Liberian Freighter would be the fourth in the Shoemaker for Drysdale, tying him for the top spot with James Nazworthy. Drysdale has won previously with Labeeb (1998), Irish Prize (2001) and Aragorn (2006).
Another Hall of Fame trainer, Ron McAnally, will be represented by Suggestive Boy, an Argentine bred making his first start in this country.
Owned by Pozo de Luna, Inc., the 4-year-old Easing Along colt out of the Horse Chestnut mare Suffrage won four of six in his native land and banked $269,150. He won three consecutive Group I events in South America, most recently the $145,300 Jockey Club last Oct. 15 at San Isidro.
From inside out, the field for the Shoemaker Mile: Dubai You X Y Z, Brice Blanc rides, 124 pounds; Hudson Landing, Juan Hernandez, 124; Little Mike, Joe Bravo, 124; Suggestive Boy, Joe Talamo, 124; Jeranimo, Garrett Gomez, 124; Corporate Jungle, Rafael Bejarano, 124; Liberian Freighter, Martin Garcia, 124 and Mr. Commons, Mike Smith, 124.