The mark of a good racehorse is one that’s got “heart” and what horsemen call “honesty.” The mark of a good race trainer is the ability and sense to choose the right race for the horse.
In the case of Arch Traveler and his trainer Jimmy Jerkens, it seems that Centennial Farms may well have both. On Saturday, the Centennial team headed by Jerkens sends Arch Traveler to the starting gate of race number eight at New York’s Belmont Park as part of the undercard for the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes.
The race, formerly named after the great racehorse Riva Ridge, was renamed the Woody Stephens Stakes in honor of the Hall of Fame trainer after he won five straight Belmont Stakes' from 1982 to 1986. Stephens’ feat still inspires awe in those who know racing, but member Don Little Jr. - the president of Centennial Farms - stands a chance of soon matching Stephens' achievement. In sending Centennial’s colt Arch Traveler to race at Belmont, Little is looking to chalk up another victory in what has thus far been a three-year winning streak.
Arch Traveler, the son of Sky Mesa, has been looking better all spring. that put away thoughts of being a contender for the Kentucky Derby, Jerkens has steered the three-year old bay masterfully on a course all his own.
Arch Traveler not only won his last race, the 7-furlong (4,620 feet) Ziggy Boy Stakes - he also won his two races preceding it.
No longer flying under the radar, Arch Traveler has been noticed and enters the Woody Stephens Stakes as one of the favorites, along with Travelin' Man and Justin Philip.
Despite what many might think, the Triple Crown does not necessarily showcase all the best horses. For instance, horses that are sprinters by design, rather than distance runners, don’t fair so well in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
Knowing what he’s got in Arch Traveler, Jerkens has made a shrewd move in entering the colt in the Woody Stephens Stakes. The race is a sprint and shortly after the seven horse field bursts from the starting gate it will be clear which has the richest blend of speed and heart.