Don Little knows horses, especially those that are nimble and fleet.
The son of Master of Foxhounds and long-time polo team captain Donald V. Little Sr., “Doo” Little has galloped plenty, and borne enough bruises on the polo field to know a horse of quality.
His focus now shifts from polo chukkas to race meets - Little currently serves as President of Centennial Farms Management Co. And the horse that has his eye these days is a strapping three-year-old colt named Arch Traveler. He’s bay, got a star and a sock and his groom whistles an occasional bar of "My Old Kentucky Home.”
At 5:40 p.m. on Sunday, Arch Traveler will be loaded into gate number three at Hallandale, Florida’s Gulfstream Park and about one minute and forty-seven seconds later he might just be $600,000 richer and the new favorite in the Kentucky Derby in May.
Little introduced Centennial’s red and gold racing silks to the track in 1982 and in the years since has seen Centennial’s horses win or place in over 60 top races. Their champions include Rubiano, Colonial Affair, and a fiery chestnut colt named Corinthian who polished off his racing career with the 2007 Grade I Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Monmouth Park and the 2007 Metropolitan Handicap (Grade I) at Belmont Park.
Arch Traveler is owned by a partnership - but Little has fair claim to him. Working with two others; Stephen Carr, the team’s veterinarian and racing manager, and Paula Parsons, who starts yearlings at Centennial’s Middleburg, Va. farm, Little selected Arch Traveler at the Keeneland auction in Lexington, Ky. in 2009.
“We bought Arch Traveler for $260,000. After that we sent him to Virginia to be broke and trained, then he went to New York with our trainer Jimmy Jerkens all last summer and fall. (Arch Traveler) had his first start as a two-year-old in December 2010,” said Little.
Now heading for his first stakes race after winning his last two races, Arch Traveler is stepping into the big league.
Jerkens, the trainer, knows he’s running an underdog. Arch Traveler’s odds were last set at 20-1, but he’s confident nonetheless. His father, H. Allen Jerkens, is an inductee into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame and his brother Steve is a trainer as well. Simply said, racing is in his blood. That and he won the race before, in 2009, breaking the track record with Quality Road.
“We decided to take a chance, (Arch Traveler’s) been improving all winter, Jerkens said in an interview with Hamilton-Wenham Patch. "He’s a little on the rookie side around the barn but he hasn’t been any trouble to train.”
“He’s a typical colt- but that’s what you want,” Jerkens added, after a pause.
Jerkens was generous with praise when asked about the competition on Sunday. Speaking of Soldat - the odds on favorite - he said; “(They brought him) off the turf (and) he’s proved me wrong. He’s been the distance - he’s genuine.”
To view more information about the Florida Derby and Arch Traveler's racing record visit Gulfstream Park's website.