Belmont Stakes: Virginia-Connected Antiquarian Should Be ‘Right There At The End’

The following appeared in the Paulick Report June 6, 2024.

Centennial Farms will look to double their tally in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets when they send out Antiquarian in Saturday’s 10-furlong test for 3-year-olds, at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, the $250,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase will look to follow in the footsteps of Centennial’s 1993 Belmont Stakes-winner Colonial Affair. He was conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Scotty Schulhofer and ridden to victory by future Hall of Famer Julie Krone, who became the first female jockey to win a Triple Crown race.

Antiquarian in the Fair Grounds winners circle.

Antiquarian graduated at second asking over a sloppy and sealed main track in February at Fair Grounds, earning a shot there in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby where he broke through the gate before the start. He was reloaded and endured a difficult trip when sixth, defeated four lengths by the victorious Catching Freedom.

The talented chestnut, by the Centennial Farms-campaigned Preservationist, redeemed himself last out, overcoming being bumped at the break by Deterministic before racing three-wide from third position and making a five-wide bid through the turn en route to a three-quarter length score over returning rival The Wine Steward.

Antiquarian galloped on the Oklahoma training track on Wednesday before visiting the gate for a schooling session that went off without a hitch with Don Little, Jr., president and co-owner of Centennial Farms keeping close watch.

“Right after the Louisiana Derby, the first time he went to the gate he stood there for two or three minutes and had no issues whatsoever,” recalled Little, Jr. “I think in Louisiana, when the handler cocked his head straight, he thought it was gate time and anticipated it a little bit. I’m not worried about it. He’s doing great. He’s on the right path and couldn’t be doing any better right now.”

Antiquarian (outside) works at Saratoga in preparation for the Belmont Stakes.

Antiquarian, piloted through all five starts by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, will look to become the tenth horse to complete the Peter Pan-Belmont Stakes double following Counterpoint [1951], High Gun [1954], Gallant Man [1957], Cavan [1958], Coastal [1979], Danzig Connection [1986], A.P. Indy [1992], Tonalist [2014] and last year’s winner Arcangelo.

Little, Jr. said Antiquarian’s Peter Pan score, in which he surged past The Wine Steward inside the final sixteenth, confirmed his status as a serious horse.

“It really solidified what Todd – and Johnny – had thought and told us, that he had a lot of room to grow,” Little, Jr. said. “He put it all together and it was a great performance. The neat thing about this horse is he’s very intelligent and he’s gaining from every experience.”

Centennial Farms is located next to the Middleburg Training Center in Middleburg, VA. Antiquarian earned his VTA Residency Certification here and was trained here by Paula Parsons as a yearling.

With the ongoing construction of a new and reimagined Belmont Park downstate, the Belmont Stakes will be contested at 1 1/4-miles at the Spa – but Little, Jr. noted his horse is one that may have thrived at the 12-furlong ‘Test of the Champion’ distance.

“We’ve said that right from the beginning,” Little, Jr. said. “Everyone says there’s an asterisk, but you can put an asterisk on a lot of events. The fact that this race is still a little bit longer than he’s gone will help him. I think he’ll be right there at the end.”

Centennial Farms has been involved in the highest levels of thoroughbred racing and breeding and, through the use of racing partnerships, has opened the door for many people to enjoy the sport.

Little, Jr. credits a loyal group of longtime owners as well as racing manager Dr. Stephen Carr and yearling trainer Paula Parsons for helping support and develop another potential Classic winner for Centennial. And he is hopeful that there will be more reasons to celebrate come Saturday.

“We have a very good tactician on his back,” Little, Jr. said. “Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez has ridden him every time and he’s helped him grow every time. I think we’ll be stalking right there and be ready to run.”

Perhaps the fact that Antiquarian, who also paddock schooled Wednesday, will exit post 5 is a good omen as he will be wearing the same number that his sire sported en route to victory in the Spa’s 2019 Grade 1 Woodward.

“I hope so,” said Little, Jr., with a laugh. “Preservationist got off to a good start. He had [stakes winner] Band of Gold with Kenny McPeek and, percentage wise, his number of winners is pretty good. Airdrie breeds nice horses. We’re fortunate they took him in as a stallion and we’re hoping Saturday adds to Preservationists’ success as a stallion.”

G3 Peter Pan winner Antiquarian visited the starting gate at Saratoga on Wednesday, June 5, ahead of a start in the G1 Belmont Stakes
G3 Peter Pan winner Antiquarian visited the starting gate at Saratoga on Wednesday, June 5, ahead of a start in the G1 Belmont StakesSusie Raiser/NYRA Photo