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Going wire-to-wire, Little Mike captures the Arlington Million for the Vaccarezzas

RamA. Dominguez  right aboard Little Mike pulls away from James Graham aboard Willcox Inn during ArlingtMillihorse race ArlingtPark Saturday

Ramon A. Dominguez , right, aboard Little Mike, pulls away from James Graham, aboard Willcox Inn, during the Arlington Million horse race at Arlington Park, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012, in Arlington Heights, Ill. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

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4 (4) Little Mike (R. Dominguez) 9.80 5.60 4.40

3 (3) Afsare (K. Fallon) 6.60 4.80

5 (5) Colombian (W. Buick) 3.80

Off 5:47. Time 2:02.44. Good. Also Ran—Crackerjack King, Treasure Beach, Wigmore Hall, Willcox Inn, Boisterous, Cherokee Lord, Vertiformer. dh—Colombian, Rahystrada (3). $1 Pick 6 (6-8-7-2-2-4) 6 Correct Paid $3,437.90, 5 Correct Paid $20.90. $0.5 Pick 5 (8-7-2-2-4) 5 Correct Paid $1,633.40. $1 Pick 3 (2-2-4) 3 Correct Paid $355.80. Daily Double (2-4) paid $112.60. Exacta (4-3) paid $63.40. $0.1 Superfecta (4-3-5-1) paid $102.91. $0.1 Superfecta (4-3-1-5) paid $104.86. $0.5 Trifecta (4-3-1) paid $72.45. $0.5 Trifecta (4-3-5) paid $73.70.

(c) 2012 Equibase Company LLC, all rights reserved.

Updated: September 20, 2012 10:30AM

Priscilla Vaccarezza was born in Chicago, grew up in Carol Stream and attended Glenbard North High School. But she never had been to Arlington Park until Saturday, when her horse Little Mike won the 30th running of the Arlington Million over British invader Afsare in front of 34,022.

Little Mike, who went off at 7-2 and was one of three co-favorites, won the 1¼-mile turf race by 1½ lengths in 2:02.44 with Ramon Dominguez aboard. The Florida-bred 5-year-old trained by Dale Romans paid $9.80 to win in his first Million appearance.

“I’ve never been to Arlington, and my aunt, who is here with me, her three children all worked here because she lives in Arlington Heights,” Vaccarezza said. “I was a little nervous, but not as nervous as during the Woodford Reserve Classic [which Little Mike won May 5 at Churchill Downs].

“When I’m nervous, it’s better because this is such a superstitious thing.”

Vaccarezza moved to Florida after high school and didn’t get involved in horse racing until she met her husband, Carlo, who’s a breeder and has 19 horses in his stable. Little Mike is named after their 10-year-old son.

“I was just lucky to fall into it,” Vaccarezza said.

Little Mike led the entire race and by winning the Million, he earned a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. The Million winner received the win-and-you’re-in provision for the Grade I Breeders’ Cup race.

“I want to give the horse a couple of days off,” Carlo Vaccarezza said. “We have no pressure with the win-and-you’re-in. We might give him two or three months off and go straight to the Breeders’ Cup. This horse runs so well off the layoff.”

After sitting for 10 months with a condylar fracture, Little Mike went wire-to-wire for a $100,000 allowance win last December at Gulfstream, then won the Sunshine Million at Gulfstream Park in January and the Woodford on Kentucky Derby day. In his last race before the Million, Little Mike was third in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park on June 20.

Afsare had issues getting into the starting gate, trying to break free from the gate crew and subsequently knocking over a portion of the inside rail. After a few tries trying to control Afsare, the gate crew was able to push the horse into the starting gate.

“His antics didn’t cost him,” jockey Kieren Fallon said. “He just acts like a spoiled child sometimes and didn’t want the gate.”

European horses dominated the other stakes races.

Irish-bred I’m a Dreamer won the $750,000 Beverly D. by a head over Marketing Mix in 1:55.29.

With the win-and-you’re-in provision also extending to the Beverly D., I’m a Dreamer can run in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. But trainer David Simcock said that’s only one option for the horse, who will retire at season’s end.

“We can go Breeders’ Cup or stay in Europe,” Simcock said. “She owes us nothing now. We’ll finish with a bang somewhere.”

Winning jockey Hayley Turner had a short turnaround and raced Wigmore Hall to an eighth-place finish in the Million about 40 minutes after the Beverly D.

French invader Bayrir edged Finnegans Wake by 1¼ lengths to win the $500,000 Secretariat in 2:02.92. Bayrir started the race in the back in post No. 7 in the eight-horse field.

“It wasn’t the plan [to be far back early], but the race started out very quickly,” winning jockey Christophe Lemaire said. “I let my horse get into the race. On the backstretch, he was racing very well, and he took the bit on his own around the last corner. He’s a very clever horse.”

Jakkalberry overtook Illinois-bred Ioya Bigtime in the final furlong to win the inaugural $400,000 American St. Leger by two lengths in 2:49.01. Ioya Bigtime had the lead right out of the gate but lost it in that final furlong. The Irish-bred and Australian-owned Jakkalberry didn’t have the St. Leger on his racing agenda until about a month ago.

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