Little Mike's Big Success
Story of a Winning Horse from Parkland
By Charlie Barbary / May - June, 2011

Horse racing was called the sport of kings, but it was never really that. It was a sport that only the rich could afford to participate in as owners of horses and stables. Only the wealthy could afford to linger in the stands for an afternoon of finger-foods, tea and an occasional sip of liquor. But the wealthy were watching polo matches, not horse racing. Even today, European royalty like England's Prince Charles and his children still enjoy picking up the approximately fifty-inch mallet and going at the competition.

If you want a sport for the rest of us, a sport that allows rich and the not rich to scream uncontrollably, side-by-side, to cheer on "their" horse, and to comfort each other as they tear up their now-meaningless pari-mutuel tickets, then thoroughbred horse racing is for you.

Maybe you're looking for a hometown favorite, and, boy (girl), do I have a great candidate. Little Mike is a horse owned by Parkland resident Priscilla Vaccarezza.

With her husband, Carlo, she also owns Little Mike's dam (mother) and sire (father). The Vaccarezzas show off Little Mike as he flies around turns, screams down the stretches and wins races like the $100,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes, albeit by a nose, but, who cares... Little Mike won.

The Vaccarezzas have an ambitious schedule planned for Little Mike at Gulfstream Park this year. He'll likely start in the $100,000 Appleton Stakes (G3) on April 3. Will Little Mike win? Who knows? But, for a two-dollar bet, you'll have the thrill of a lifetime watching this four-year-old gelding take on the big guys (bullies all, to Little Mike, and in need of a real comeuppance).

Little Mike's dam, Hay Jude, would be proud because she has foaled several successful offspring. Now it's Mike's turn. His sire, Spanish Steps, must smile every time Mike steps into the starting gate.

Initially, Little Mike wasn't winning the races he was entered in, but two things changed all that. First, the Vaccarezzas began training Little Mike at Jim Crupi's New Castle Farm in Ocala. Carlo Vaccarezza credits Crupi with all the great changes seen in Mike. Second, it turns out that Little Mike didn't particularly like racing on dirt. He does, however, love racing on turf...and race he the chagrin of the competition and the joy of all the spectators, bettors and Priscilla, Carlo, and their three beautiful children, Alexis, age fifteen, Nicholas, age eleven, and Michael, age nine.

I recently asked Carlo if he thought Little Mike could keep winning when he is up against such tough competition. He said, "When Little Mike runs, it's like he is out to beat the world and, as long as he's healthy, he'll keep competing. Even in the face of long odds, he'll give his fans a real run for the money."

In horse racing, no one can ask for more. And... they're off...

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