Dreamlicious Stepping It Up for $100,000 Ta Wee Stakes
Gonzales Benefits from Experience While Winning Races
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Carlo Vaccarezza enjoyed a spectacular 2012 racing season when his homebred Little Mike put the local restaurateur and his wife, Priscilla, in the winner’s circle following the Florida Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream, the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs, the Arlington Million (G1) at Arlington Park and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita.
Now, he wants to share the thrill of Thoroughbred ownership with others.
The owner of Frank & Dino’s in Deerfield Beach, along with trainer Dale Romans and Florida businessman John Williams, have founded Little Dreams Racing (littledreamsracing.com) to give people a chance to participate in horse ownership who otherwise could only dream about it.
“When Little Mike won all those big races, the Sunshine Millions, the Woodford Reserve, the Arlington Million and Breeders’ Cup, people who came to the restaurant said, ‘Carlo, the next time you buy a horse, I would like to buy a little piece,’” Vaccarezza said.
The seed was planted, and Vaccarezza came up with the idea of forming a “blue collar” ownership group that will allow someone to buy as little as 1 percent of a horse and pay the same percentage of the horse’s training costs.
“It’s for people who can’t afford to pay $50,000 or $60,000 on a horse – the UPS driver, the FedEx driver, the secretary in the doctor’s office, the people who go to the racetrack every week but can’t afford $50,000 or $60,000 but can afford $1,000 or $2,000 and would like to buy 1 or 2 percent of a horse,” Vaccarezza said.
Little Dreams Racing currently has 11 2-year-olds in training, including Little Rocco, who is entered to make his career debut at Gulfstream Park in Saturday’s sixth race. There are several people in Little Rocco’s ownership group, some with as little as 1 percent interest in the Florida-bred son of Hi Cotton.
“He’s been training phenomenally,” Vaccarezza said.
Little Dreams Racing has six 2-year-olds, all with names starting with “Little,” stabled at Gulfstream Park.
“We’re here to support Gulfstream Park 100 percent,” Vaccarezza said. “We plan to run as many horses as we can here.”
And, hopefully, introduce many new owners to the winner’s circle.
“When you’re in the winner’s circle, nobody asks what percentage you own,” Vaccarezza said. “You get the same thrill as though you own 99 percent of the horse.”
Dreamlicious Making Great Strides for Saturday’s Ta Wee
Trainer Bill Kaplan saw the potential in Dreamlicious back in April 2012 when he purchased the Florida-bred daughter of Ecclesiastic for owner Robert Norman at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale for $60,000.
Dreamlicious continued to show potential on the racetrack, placing in two stakes, but couldn’t quite break through with a victory in her first 13 starts. With a move to turf, a stretch-out around two turns and the addition of blinkers, the 3-year-old filly finally got it together and broke her maiden in May. Dreamlicious came back to run three more strong races to earn a shot in Saturday’s $100,000 Ta Wee Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
“She was very immature. In fact, she’s still losing the caps on her teeth. She’s really turned around and coming into her own,” said Kaplan, who trained Eclipse Award-winning 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint champion Musical Romance. “She’s always had ability. She finally got the idea. She gets better with every race. I don’t know if the grass did it or it’s just a matter of maturity, but she was a very immature filly.”
Dreamlicious earned her first career victory with a strong late run on May 17 and followed up with a pair of fast-closing runner-up finishes in allowance company on turf, losing one by just a nose.
“Sometimes I drop them for a tag, and it gives them all the confidence in the world. It changes their mindset,” Kaplan said. “After that dropdown to $40,000, which I got away with, she kept building on that confidence.”
Kaplan, though, didn’t know what to expect on July 27 when a turf allowance at Gulfstream was moved to a sloppy main track. The sophomore filly uncharacteristically went right to the lead without urging and opened up a 12-length lead at the eighth-pole, where her jockey Jonathan Gonzales virtually stood up and eased her to the wire eight lengths ahead.
“Of course, I’d love to see it come up sloppy,” Kaplan said. “If not, I think she’ll run decent on the grass. I can’t see her throwing in a clunker after her last four races.”
Gonzales Learns from Best to Make the Most of ‘Bug’
Watching Jonathan Gonzales ride a Thoroughbred, it might be difficult to believe that the native of Peru still has five months remaining in his apprenticeship. The 24-year-old jockey certainly performs like a rider with considerably more experience than the average “bug.” That’s because he gained a wealth of experience before embarking on a career as a jockey at Gulfstream Park in the spring of 2012.
“My first teacher was Edgar Prado. He told me, ‘Experience is important for this work.’ I called him every day,” said Gonzales, who still talks to the Hall of Fame jockey a couple times a week. “I galloped horses for five years before I rode.”
Gonzales learned to gallop under several of the best trainers in the country. In addition to gathering experience locally, he traveled to New York and Kentucky to gallop for the likes of Todd Pletcher, Ken McPeek and Tom Amoss, among others.
When it came time to start his jockey career, Gonzales followed Prado’s advice.
“He said, ‘Keep your horse relaxed in the race and don’t push your horse too early – the race is in the stretch, not before that,’” Gonzales said.
In addition to taking advantage of Prado’s expertise and wisdom, Gonzales credits trainer Luis Duco with giving his career a big boost. In addition to providing him with his first winner, Si Senora, on April 7, 2012 at Gulfstream, Duco also trains Empire Builder, Gonzales’ favorite horse on whom he has won three stakes.
Despite missing six months last year with a broken collarbone and a month last winter with a fractured wrist, Gonzales has maintained strong numbers throughout his young career, riding 117 winners from 697 mounts. His numbers are only getting stronger during the Gulfstream summer meeting, scoring at a 31-percent rate with 11 trips to the winner’s circle from 35 mounts.