Centennial Farms seeks second Belmont win with Antiquarian

The first Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets at Saratoga Race Course will bring together two diverse versions of a racing partnership.

At one end of the spectrum is the new wave of MyRacehorse campaigning Preakness Stakes winner Seize the Grey, who will carry the hopes of 2,570 owners into the June 8, 1 1/4-mile final leg of the Triple Crown.

Formed in 2018, the company sold fractional microshares of the $300,000 son of Arrogate for $127 in exchange for a 0.02% stake in the colt, with no expenses.

At the other extreme is the more traditional Centennial Farms, which has stood the test of time for 42 years and brings together a dozen owners who each own a share of the Belmont Starter Antiquarian that has a non-zero number in front of the decimal. point.

They also own a share of all five or six yearlings — generally one bought at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga Sale and the rest at the Keeneland September sale of yearlings — Centennial buys each year and packs in their yearlings.

“We are focused on making this a true ownership experience. Most partners are licensed and own a significant piece of each horse. It’s more of a family or club partnership,” said Don Little Jr., president and co-owner of Centennial, which was founded in 1982 by his late father, Donald Little. “We are all friends. I speak with each individual owner on a regular basis. We are more expensive than other partnerships, but we do it for a reason. Most partners are of the same opinion. They understand the business. You are not one of a thousand. You are one of the 12.”

Stability has been a hallmark of Centennial’s success over the past four decades, which includes winning or placing in nearly 150 graded stakes, more than $26 million in earnings and the campaign of 14 horses that became stallions.

In addition to the veteran ownership team, which also includes Peter Horvitz and Margaret O’Meara, racing manager Dr. Stephen Carr and yearling trainer Paula Parsons have been with Centennial since the beginning and have played leading roles in the most recent activity of partnership at yearling sales. .

There are also numerous longtime owners such as Ed Barker, Tom Carr and Jeff Campbell who over the years have owned champion stock and Grade 1, Classic and Breeders’ Cup winners such as Preservationist, Rubiano, Colonial Affair, Corinthian and Wicked Strong.

“We’ve been lucky to keep the same team together for so long. We’ve changed trainers along the way, but we have a loyal team in terms of the company and a loyal base of investors,” said Little, an advocate for aftercare programs who has $2,000 added to the purchase of each Centennial horse for to create a fund. to buy back the horse after his racing career and who also keeps some of the stable’s retired runners at his farm in Massachusetts.

Antiquarian, with a win Saturday, would become the second Centennial 3-year-old to capture the Belmont Stakes.

The first came on a dark and rainy afternoon in 1993 at Belmont Park when Julie Krone rode the Scotty Schulhofer-trained Colonial Affair to victory for Centennial and became the first woman to win a Triple Crown race.

“It was a pretty big day,” said Little, a vice president of the Belmont Child Care Association. “Julie has been a great spokesperson for us ever since. It would be nice to get back into the winner’s circle for a second time and I think we have a good chance. We won’t just be in the race.”

Although the Antiquarian is not a homebred, he does have royal Centennial bloodlines. Bred by the late Brereton Jones out of the mare Istan Lifetime Memory, he is from the first crop of the partnership’s Grade 1 winner Conservator and became his sire’s first graded stakes winner when he captured the May 11 Peter Pan Stakes on his most recent start his.

He was purchased for $250,000 from Jones and Airdrie Stud, which stands for Conservationist, at the 2022 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

“He had everything. Pedigree out of a young mare. He was a little late foaling in May, but by the way he walked and his physicality, he looked very athletic. As soon as we started the break-in process, he had the right mindset and athleticism that I saw as a yearling,” Little said. “He was No.1 on our list of three conservation colts and we were lucky to get him. It was an expensive yearling based on a $10,000 fee (at the time), but he’s got pretty decent runners so far.”

In addition to Antiquarian, 2019 Woodward Stakes winner Preservationist produced the 3-year-old filly Band of Gold, who won February’s Martha Washington Stakes for trainer Ken McPeek.

“We campaigned for Conservationist and wanted to support him as best we could with his first harvest,” Little said. “Dr. Carr and Paula Parsons, who have been selecting horses for us since 1986, chose Antiquarian and I think they chose the right one. I think he has a nice edge to him and he can be a very important individual.”

The Todd Pletcher-trained Antiquarian will be making his fifth career start in the Belmont Stakes at Spa and is coming off the aforementioned victory in the Peter Pan Stakes at Aqueduct, the same race Colonial Affair finished second ahead of his score at Belmont.

In the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan, Antiquarian was third at the start and then took the lead in the optimum final mile to post a score of three-quarters of a length over the favorite The Wine Steward.

“We were very pleased with his effort in Peter Pan. He was a true professional. Todd was thrilled and the partners were thrilled,” Little said. “He’s got room for improvement and he’s done that in every start except a step back in Louisiana, but we used that as a learning experience and the nice thing about him is he’s got a good mind and he’s learning and getting better. We are optimistic.”

While the move to Saratoga while Belmont Park is under construction has resulted in a shorter distance of 1 1/4 miles for Saturday’s classic, connections would have liked to test the Antiquarian at the traditional 1 1/2 mile distance of “Test Champion.”

“The Antiquarian came out of Peter Pan very well,” Pletcher said. “I always felt the added distance would be to his liking.”

With a record of two wins and a second from four starts, Antiquarian’s only unbeaten effort came in the Louisiana Derby when he had a legitimate excuse. The chestnut colt broke the gate before the start, an unfortunate development that usually leads to a subpar effort.

That was certainly the case with Antiquarian, who got off his feet and was sixth while running 3-5 furlongs wide after half a mile, then finished sixth, four lengths behind the winning Catching Freedom.

“Luckily (jockey John Velazquez) held him well. He finished sixth and wasn’t beaten by much while getting a decent number (speed figure),” Little said.

He’ll need more racing luck to get the 12 owners ecstatic, but given the partnership’s winning record and two quarters in four Belmont Stakes starts, it’s clear that Centennial’s first Belmont starter in 10 years hasn’t was enrolled in a drop.

“We’re coming back to it. You can’t win these big races all the time, but at least we’re in them every now and then,” Little said.