Wicked Strong, Wood Memorial, Aqueduct, April 5th 2014
Trained by Jimmy Jerkins, Sire: Hard Spun. Dam: Moyne Abbey
Wicked Strong’s victory in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct came 21 years after Donald Little Sr. and Donald Little Jr.’s Centennial Farms enjoyed a seminal New York moment at nearby Belmont Park when Colonial Affair won the 1993 Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, making jockey Julie Krone the first female rider to win a Triple Crown race. “I was so nervous for that race that when they loaded the horses in the gate I left the owners in the box seats and hid behind a pole,” 53-year-old Little Jr. said. “By the time they were at the eighth pole, I was back in the middle of the group yelling and cheering.”
Colonial Affair wasn’t done giving the Littles reasons to cheer, adding the Grade I Whitney Handicap and Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup the following year.
Two years earlier, Centennial Farms’ Rubiano won the Grade 1 Carter Handicap, Grade I Vosburgh, Grade 2 Forego, Grade 2 Tom Fool and the Grade 3 Westchester on the way to being named 1992 Eclipse Champion Sprinter. “Rubiano and Colonial Affair put us on the map,” Little Jr. said.
Corinthian kept Centennial Farms in the headlines when he won the Grade I Metropolitan Mile and the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2007.
Little Sr. is an investment banker in Boston and the chairman of Centennial Farms. Little Jr. is the Centennial Farms President. Little Sr. is a past president of the United States Polo Association and a master of the Myopia Hunt Club who competes in the master’s class at Grand Prix show jumping events. He was also the youngest aircraft commander in the Strategic Air Command. Little Jr. is also a pilot.
Centennial Farms, which creates racing partnerships, began in 1982 and has won more than 65 graded stakes and $15 million in purses. Paula Parsons breaks and trains Centennial’s yearlings at its 60-acre farm in Middleburg, Va., and Dr. Stephen Carr, a veterinarian, advises Centennial on acquisitions and stallion management. Centennial has horses with three trainers, Jimmy Jerkens, Michael Matz and Rodney Jenkins.
When Centennial’s Grade 3 winner Chelokee was injured and retired, Centennial donated him to the University of Arizona to stand at stud.
Wicked Strong’s original name was Moyne Spun when he was purchased by Centennial for $375,000 at the 2012 Keeneland Yearling Sale. Two weeks after the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon, Little Jr. wanted to rename him Boston Strong, but that name had already been taken by Sovereign Stable. After conferring with his friend and Principal of the Boston Bruins, Charlie Jacobs, and Jacob’s wife, Kim, Little settled on Wicked Strong. Then he announced that one percent of his earnings would be donated to the One Fund, which was set up to support victims of the bombings. Already, $7,000 has been donated to the One Fund. After the Wood, Little announced the percentage would be five for the Triple Crown races.
“A lot of times, it takes tragedy to pull people together, and it’s very obvious that did that for the people of Boston,” Little told Anthony Gulizia of the Boston Globe in an April 20th, 2014, story. “The first reaction is anger, which I had myself. But then after that you think about the victims and their families and how we’re going to grow from this and support each other from this, and it happened.”
It only happens when people decide to make a difference.