For the third consecutive year, the Plate winner was voted the year’s top sophomore by the panel of voters for the Sovereigns, held for the 36th time on April 1, 2011 at Woodbine racetrack. Big Red Mike, who took long-time thoroughbred owner Dom Romeo, his family and trainer Nick Gonzalez on a ride of a lifetime last summer, was a comfortable winner of the trophy over western Canadian star No Hesitation. “To be in the Queen’s Plate with a horse and win it, there is nothing more exciting,” said Romeo as he accepted the St. Simon trophy on behalf of his chestnut gelding. “And we met the Queen too, everyone in racing dreams of something like that.”
Indeed, Big Red Mike won the 151st Plate in front of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, who was making her first trip to Woodbine in 13 years. The rambunctious son of Tenpins, a graded stakes winning son of Canadian-bred star Smart Strike, Big Red Mike was foaled at Dan Mooney’s Huntington Stud Farm and was memorable as a baby because of his almost wild, energetic behaviour.
Thinking that they would sell the long-legged fellow at the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society select yearling sale, (Romeo’s Terra Farm usually keeps fillies and those that are un-sellable), Romeo and Mooney entered the Tenpins baby in the select portion but he didn’t make the cut. Instead, he went to off to trainer Nick Gonzalez and his wife/assistant Martha who took a lot of time with the headstrong colt. Mike was gelded before his his first start, a promising second-place finish in late November, before he won his maiden in his two-year old finale.
After wintering in Florida, Big Red Mike roared back to action on April 11 with a second-place finish in an allowance race. The Romeos, including racing manager Frank, a son of Dom, wanted a relaxed approach to the Plate for “Mike” but became a bit concerned when the horse lost his next race too, also an allowance event.
The gelding put it all together at the right time, however. Despite rearing up several times in the paddock and post parade prior to the Plate Trial on June 13, Big Red Mike, with Eurico Rosa da Silva on board for the first time, battled on the pace throughout the 1 1/8 miles and held off all his challengers to win by half a length. He was 8 to 1 on the odds board that day and had only won over a few more fans by Plate day. Sent off at 5 to 1 for the ten-furlong Plate, Big Red Mike ran the exact same tactical race as he did in the Trial and held off Sam-Son Farms’ Hotep and the Woodbine Oaks winner Roan Inish for a memorable score.
Named for Dom Romeo’s grandson, Big Red Mike finished third in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie behind upset winner Golden Moka and then went past his top form in the fall, with just one runner-up placing in an allowance race in three runs. He retired for the season in Florida with the Gonzalez team to ready for 2011. “It takes so much teamwork to get here,” said Romeo on Sovereign night. “It takes the trainer, a great jockey, my son Frank, Dan Mooney, so many people to make everything work.”
Big Red Mike’s dam, Regent n’ Flashy was bred by Romeo and has produced six other foals, all winners including stakes placed Flashy Got Even.