Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector gives a masterclass at Ellis Park Derby and heads to Churchill Downs

JR Communications

On Saturday night, following a devastating performance at one of the race’s most historic tracks, the consensus within the thoroughbred racing community was that the question of which horse would bear the burden of patronage in the pandemic-delayed Kentucky Derby had been resolved.

Just 24 hours after Tiz the Law threw down the gauntlet with his sublime win in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Racetrack, however, one of the Kentucky native sons recalled that he planned to be a hostile host even to the most intimidating. challengers heading to Bluegrass on September 5.

Sunday’s $200,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Derby wasn’t the endgame for Bruce Lunsford’s art collector, but Bernardini’s son looked quite eager to see what awaited him at Churchill Downs next month when he took a 3¼ length triumph in the 1 1/8 mile race which marked the greatest day in history at the track known as the Pea Patch.

Art collector will post.

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing this year’s Kentucky Derby to be delayed, Ellis Park was able to stage its first-ever build-up for the 10-stadium classic. His signature race offered 50 qualifying points to the winner for the “Run for the Roses” and while Art Collector had essentially locked his place in the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby thanks to his victory in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes from Grade 2 to Keeneland on July 11, the bay colt made sure to show how much of an advantage is still in him.

His 2-5 status on the odds board revealed the expectations he carried on his ninth career start and, as has been the case in every outing since joining manager Tommy Drury’s barn earlier this year, Art Collector didn’t disappoint at all as they led virtually every stage en route to their fourth straight victory.

“I’m surprised my legs are still holding under me,” Drury said. “It’s a big day for us. We got what we were looking for. We wanted to get enough out of it without overdoing it. (Jockey) Brian (Hernandez) even mentioned on coming to eighth pole that he was going a little too easy, so he let the reins come out a notch just to let him finish. He was moving away from the end and that’s kind of what he’s done in every race this year. That’s all you can ask of him. Every time we throw something at him, he answers the question and handles it brilliantly.

Art Collector has proven during his recent streak that he can win with virtually any type of setup, after coming off the pace in his victory at Churchill Downs on May 17 and taking part in a stalking trip in his Blue Grass Stakes triumph. When he slipped away from post 4 in the Ellis Park Derby unscathed, he used it as the last opportunity to flaunt his heading ability.

After hitting the opening splits of :23.33 and :46.74 with 165-1 Longshot Truculent sitting right next to him in second, Art Collector faced a brief threat when Dean Martini sat down. approached the far turn and the attach rate followed suit in the three-wide. path.

Attachment Rate did well to overtake their odds of 14-1 and take the honors, but they were no match for Art Collector, who came home in a final time of 1:48.02 on a fast graded track. The track record is 1:47.60, set in 1988 by Lt. Lao.

“Our horse broke hard and I put him in the race,” said winning jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. “He was going pretty fast but at some point I knew I would be able to give him a break. . He was able to take a breather before the second corner. And once he did that, I was pretty confident in him.

“It’s huge. We enter the Derby now with a legitimate horse. As we said after the Blue Grass, he has proven that he is improving with every race. He showed it again today He kicked everyone out. He did it all on his own and ran away from there.

Attachment was 5¼ lengths ahead of Necker Island in third with Rowdy Yates and Shared Sense rounding out the top five.

“How did you hit a horse like that?” He’s pretty versatile,” Attachment Rate jockey Joe Talamo said of Art Collector. “He won in front, come from behind. He’s a very good horse, that’s for sure.

Bred in Kentucky by Lunsford and mare Distorted Humor Distorted Legacy, Art Collector began his career with trainer Joe Sharp before transferring to Drury ahead of his first start this season. And where Tiz the Law suffered his only career loss at Churchill Downs – third on a sloppy track in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last November – Art Collector holds two wins under that Twin Spiers this season and has crossed the thread first there. a race on a sloppy track on November 30 before being disqualified when he tested positive for levamisole, a deworming agent.

Art collector leading all the way.

“Tiz the Law will be the favorite. But everyone who will be there in the Kentucky Derby has earned their chance,” Hernandez said. “You have to go out there with an open mind and just read your ride. The biggest thing we’ve done on this journey is we just have to trust our horse. Let him take us out there, and That’s what he does.

Art Collector now has 150 Kentucky Derby qualifying points and improves on his overall record to five wins from nine starts with $664,380 in earnings.

“There are no bad stories here with our line (Lunsford, Drury, Hernandez),” Lunsford said. ” We are getting along very well. We started with an idea. We have followed the plan pretty well, and we will stick to it for one more race. I like the fact that we are local boys. It would be a great story for Louisville if we were to win it.

Art Collector began his career last year on grass, where he won a race debut at Kentucky Downs on his second start.

“To start at the bottom of this many years ago and get to this place and have a Derby horse that is actually a competitor. I have a lot of respect for the Derby and I had a lot of respect for the Blue Grass Stakes. I said I would never take a horse to either race if I didn’t think I had a legitimate shot,” Lunsford said. “I think after today I have a legit shot. I’m going to put these two (Hernandez and Drury) against someone else’s pair they’re bringing. It’s a hell of a pair, I can tell you that.

Bruce Lunsford

“When I bought my first mare with Seth Hancock, he was like, ‘What do you expect from this?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m patient. I would like to have a horse in the Derby one day with a chance. I had a big hit in the Oaks and ran third (with Madcap Escapade). And I always wanted to win the Blue Grass Stakes, because when I was in the UK that’s when I decided I wanted to own horses one day. history for me. It’s been a great ride. I’m going to enjoy the ride for the next four weeks. I’m going to treat each day as if I have the winner. Because the race is only two minutes long, but I I have four or five weeks ahead of me which could be great. Everyone has treated me very well. I like the way we have been treated here.

(On facing Derby favorite Tiz the Law): “If I go to my handicap days and never take anything for granted, I was a little upset – as I joked with Brian – that we didn’t have not beat the track record because we came in less than a fifth second. And I feel pretty good about it. I watch the races he has run. I have seen many good horses over the years come to Churchill Downs. I don’t necessarily think the horses he (Tiz the Law) raced against are much better than the ones we raced against and beat hands down.

An Ellis Park record of $5,241,601 was wagered on the 10-race card, eclipsing the previous record of $4,906,096 on August 4, 2007, when Ellis Park was host to the Claiming Crown.

Norma D. Ross