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Fifty fans take part in Little Mike, Romans meet-and-greet

Breeders' Cup Turf hero Little Mike welcomed 50 of his fans Sunday morning at Gulfstream Park as part of a raffle to raise money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) and Thoroughbred aftercare.

The 50 raffle winners were taken on an escorted tour of the barn area before stopping at the barn of Dale Romans, trainer of Little Mike. Romans, along with Little Mike's breeder and owner, Carlo Vaccarezza, answered questions from the fans before leading Little Mike out of his stall so fans could take pictures with him.

Romans, honored recently with the Turf Publicists of America's Big Sport of Turfdom Award, then led the crowd down his shedrow explaining the care that goes into each Thoroughbred.

Romans, Vaccarezza and their staff offered guests cold drinks and snacks throughout the tour.

"This is extremely gracious of Mr. Romans and Mr. Vaccarezza to allow us to come back here and meet them and Little Mike," said Daryl LaRouche, one of the raffle winners. "I think it's wonderful for fans to see something like this. Gulfstream, Mr. Romans and everyone have been extremely kind."

Romans was asked questions about Little Mike, retired Preakness winner Shackleford, turf racing and how much it costs to own and race a horse. Romans praised his help several times throughout the morning.

When asked what his biggest achievement was so far, Romans said it was being able to work with many of the same people he started his career with. He also joked, "Surviving 25 years."

Little Mike gained fame this year by winning three Grade 1 contests -- the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, Grade 1 Arlington Million at Arlington Park and Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita in his last start. Along the way, the five-year-old son of Spanish Steps also captured the Florida Sunshine Millions Turf, ran third in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile and finished fourth in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf.

Little Mike is currently being prepared by Romans for a trip to Dubai in March for a possible start in the Group 1, $5 million Golden Sheema. Romans told his guests the gelding may run first in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf on February 9, a race that is also expected to include 2011 Kentucky Derby winner and champion Animal Kingdom.

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