Thoroughbred Racing

Little Mike out to defend Arlington Million crown

Arlington Heights, IL (Sports Network) - Little Mike will take on 12 challengers Saturday as he defends his 2012 victory in this year's Arlington Million XXXI at Arlington Park. Six runners are shipping in from Europe.

The 1 1/4-mile turf event is part of the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" program. A victory reserves a spot for the winning horse in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.

Trained by Eclipse Award winner Dale Romans, Little Mike will start from post 11 with Joel Rosario in the saddle for a second straight race. The 6-year-old gelding is owned by Priscilla Vaccarreza and bred by her husband Carlo.

Little Mike is coming off a fourth-place result in the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park as the 8-5 favorite. Earlier this year, the gelding finished eighth and 11th in a pair of starts in Dubai.

His 2012 season was highlighted by a win in the Breeders' Cup Turf as a 17-1 longshot. He captured Arlington Million XXX by 1 1/2 lengths in a wire-to-wire effort.

"To me, the Arlington Million is the most prestigious turf race in the country," Romans said Tuesday. "It's the second-biggest race I wanted to win outside of the (Kentucky) Derby, and I was fortunate enough to do it last year and hopefully I'll get my second one this year."

Little Mike has earned $3,104,412 with a dozen victories in 24 lifetime starts.

Arlington Handicap winner Rahystrada will be making his fourth consecutive start in the Million. The 9-year-old chestnut gelding will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik from post 12.

Trained by Byron Hughes for Robert Courtney Jr., Rahystrada set most of the pace in winning last month's Arlington Handicap for the second straight year and third time overall. Last year, the gelding was third to Little Mike in the Million after previously posting a fourth and fifth.

Rahystrada has won 14 of 44 career starts for $1,371,750.

Coming in from Europe is Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's The Apache. Trained by Mike de Kock, the 6-year-old will break from post 10 with jockey Christophe Soumillon.

The Apache was fourth in his most recent start in England. In three stakes early this year in Dubai he had a win and two seconds. The 6-year-old has won seven of 19 lifetime starts and $1,461,027.

Here is the complete Million field in post position order: Real Solution, Alan Garcia; Finnegans Wake, Robby Albarado; Hunter's Light, Ryan Moore; Nates Mineshaft, E.T. Baird; Temeraine, Eddie Castro; Side Glance, Jamie Spencer; Indy Point, Gary Stevens; Mull of Killough, Joseph O'Brien; Guest of Honour, Martin Harley; The Apache, Christophe Soumillon; Little Mike, Joel Rosario; Rahystrada, Rosie Napravnik and Grandeur, William Buick.

Post-time for the Arlington Million will be approximately 6:45 p.m. (ET).

08/14 14:08:39 ET