Donald Little Jr., who has helped the polo team win many a chukker, now devotes his attention to commanding the Centennial Farms thoroughbred racing partnership.
And that partnership is in the heart of its season at the Saratoga Racetrack in upstate New York. Coming off the big Fasig-Tipton Yearling Sale at Saratoga, Little, son of the late Donald Little Sr., recently spoke with "Tell Me Something Good" columnist Helen Weatherall.
Three decades in the sport and business of racing, Centennial Farms has an impressive record. The partnership’s horses have won or placed in over 60 graded races. Their stellar roster includes 1993 Belmont Stakes and 1994 Whitney and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Colonial Affair, and Corinthian - who after being purchased for $385,000 by the Centennial team went on the earn $1,267,273 and start a promising stallion career at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky.
Q. Let me start off by congratulating you on your horse, Redemption Road, and his win at Saratoga on July 25.
Centennial Farms has what on the company’s website is described as an annual tradition of buying a well-bred colt that will have maximum stallion potential. Did you and your team achieve this at the Fasig-Tipton Yearling Sale held this week in Saratoga, N.Y.?
A. Yes we did. We had four horses on our list that met our requirements - that is a physical individual, (a good confirmation) and an attractive pedigree. And we got him for $300,000, the other three were out of our price range. His sire’s Tiznow.
Q. Tiznow’s a big horse. Is there a particular stallion that’s hot this year?
A. Distorted Humor, Tapit, Tiznow, Empire Maker, who’s in Japan now, is huge. Curlin’s first crop is just starting to race. Next year he’ll be fashionable. His son Palace Malice had a big win at Saratoga last week.
But (in choosing horses) our emphasis is on the female side. The mare herself (dam of the colt we purchased) has produced a stakes winner.
Q. I read at Bloodhorse.com that "Wait No More," a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, went for the highest price of the sale. Tell me your thoughts. Is it unusual for a filly to get more attention in the sales ring than the colts?
A. She brought $1,575,000 - No, not really. It’s not surprising. The stallion market is flat right now. The residual value is higher in a filly. There aren’t that many good mares anymore. (And) Medaglia d’Oro’s a broodmare sire.
Q. Is it all about pedigree and confirmation when you’re looking to buy?
A. No. You look at a lot of horses - and for whatever reason…When they pull him out of the stall - you say ‘Well wait a minute - this is one we’ll have to look at.” It might be the look in their eye.
Q. Were there any Massachusetts-bred horses offered for sale at Fasig-Tipton this year?
A. No. It’s not like it was. Bunny Sears’ horse "Deputy Testimony" won the Preakness in 1983 but the younger generation of her family hasn’t carried on with racing.
But my aunt Trisha (former Chairwoman of Suffolk Downs) has a horse running in the 8th race at Suffolk Downs this Saturday. It’s a $50,000 stakes race for three year-olds and up. (Postscript - it won)
Q. That’s exciting. What’s the horse’s name?
A. Victor Laszlo. And his jockey’s a woman - Tammi Piermarini.
(Amesbury native Piermarini, who is 45, recently became the third-leading female rider of all-time with 2,139 career wins. In fact she achieved this milestone riding Victor Laszlo for Moseley at Suffolk Downs this July. Notably, the retired jockey Julie Krone, who holds the record with 3,704 races won, rode Colonial Affair to victory in the 1993 Belmont Stakes for Centennial Farms. The race marked the first time that a female jockey won any of the three races of The Triple Crown)
Q. And where’s your new colt now?
A. He’s on a van, in fact he’s probably there at our barn in Middleburg, Va.
Q. Do you get excited still?
A. Definitely. It’s hopes and dreams. That’s what it’s about. It’s always exciting to have a new prospect in the barn.