Dubai Duty Free Contender Little Mike & Owner Carlo Vaccarezza Share 'Rags to Riches' Story
Born in Genoa, Italy, Carlo Vaccarrezza makes no bones of telling how he arrived in America with just sixty dollars in his pocket to start a new life. His first job was as a hotwalker at New York's Aqueduct racetrack. There he met some people in the restaurant business who offered him a job. That job was to last twelve years before he went out on his own opening his own restaurant with former baseball star Rusty Staub, and Carlo's rise in the restaurant business continued thereafter, allowing him to indulge in his passion for horses that sprang from his early days at Aqueduct. He started buying horses in the mid-eighties and now has around twenty or so.
Little Mike's beginnings were no more glamorous. Bred by Vaccarezza from a mare by the name of Hay Jude, whom nobody wanted, and whom he couldn't give away, Little Mike's sire was the equally unfashionable Spanish Steps, who never saw a racecourse, but was a full brother to successful race horse and stallion Unbridled's Song.
Little Mike's rise last season was astounding, taking in the Woodford Reserve over a mile on turf on Kentucky Derby Day, taking out the prestigious Arlington Million in August, and finishing the 2012 season with success in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita in November.
"Targeting one of the world's great races here in Dubai is a dream come true," said Vaccarezza at Meydan on Monday morning. "Little Mike's doing great over here, he breezed well yesterday, and he's ready for Saturday."
"He ran here on March 9th over a mile and a quarter on the tapeta, but he didn't go well on the surface, so it is back to the turf on Saturday for the Dubai Duty Free. If he had gone well we might have been invited to the Dubai World Cup. But that's a very deep race, and I'd rather be running in the Dubai Duty Free where I think he can win, than in the World Cup for a place."
Vaccarezza could be forgiven for feeling that perhaps Little Mike hasn't received the credit he deserves back home.
"At the Eclipse Awards, the prize went to Wise Dan, and I'm not taking anything away from him – he's a very good horse – but he did his winning at a mile, while Little Mike won at a mile, a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half – he's versatile and he has speed, but he didn't get the award."
Success for Little Mike on Saturday, and a planned defense of his Arlington Million and Breeders' Cup titles might just change people's thinking next time around.