Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector, confidently handled by Luis Saez, captured Friday’s $120,000 Alydar, a nine-furlong test for older horses who have not won a stakes other than state-bred in 2021, at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Recently transferred to the care of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, the 4-year-old Bernardini colt utilized a front-running approach to secure his first win since capturing a pair of nine-furlong stakes last summer for his former conditioner, Tom Drury, in the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Ellis Park Derby.
“If you look at his nine-furlong races, you saw he had done very well for the previous trainer,” said Mott. “Both Tom Drury and I had trained for Bruce and Bruce wanted the horse in Saratoga, so Tommy sent the horse up to us and he was in good shape when he came. We’ve had him six weeks and he’s done well since he’s been here.”
Art Collector, exiting post 4, cleared the field of eight into the first turn as a forwardly-placed Core Beliefs protected his inside run with Bourbon War, Math Wizard and Night Ops also jostling for position through an opening quarter-mile in 24.51 seconds on the fast main track.
Jesus’ Team, runner-up in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup in January, was slow away from the gate but rushed up into sixth down the backstretch by Junior Alvarado as the half-mile ticked by in 48.80.
Art Collector, moving confidently under Saez, dictated terms into the final turn as Night Ops continued to press with the duo gaining three lengths of separation on Core Beliefs in third.
As the field straightened away for the stretch run, Art Collector opened up by three-lengths under a hand ride as Night Ops continued his dogged pursuit and started to close the gap. But an alert Saez shook the reins and his charge responded in kind to secure the 1 1/2-length win in a final time of 1:48.20.
Saez, who guided Art Collector to a runner-up effort on debut in August 2019 at the Spa, said he wanted to be forwardly placed.
“I rode the horse when he was a baby and he liked to be a free runner,” Saez said. “The plan was to break well from our post and see if we can get the lead, and everything went the way we planned it. Breaking from there, we got ahead and he kept going. I saw Manny coming, but I knew I had a lot of horse, so I was patient with him.”
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Night Ops completed the exacta by 8 1/2-lengths over Math Wizard. Rounding out the order of finish were Core Beliefs, Limonite, Prioritize, Bourbon War and Jesus’ Team.
“When I was in my position stuck in second, I didn’t think the pace was too quick, so I had to do my work because no one else went with [Art Collector],” Franco said. “My horse is a horse that never gives up. He always tries. I have to give credit to the winner, but my horse was second-best today.”
Art Collector, who completed his sophomore campaign with off-the-board efforts in the Grade 1 Preakness in October at Pimlico and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Keeneland, was transferred to Mott following a sixth-place finish in the Kelly’s Landing in June at Churchill Downs.
Mott said Art Collector will now potentially target the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward on October 2 at Belmont Park.
Bred in Kentucky by his owner, Art Collector banked $66,000 in victory while improving his record to 13-6-1-0. He paid $3.80 for a $2 win ticket.
Live racing resumes Saturday with a loaded 12-race card headlined by the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney at nine furlongs for older horses, a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Whitney Day also features two other Grade 1 events with the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational for 3-year-olds going 1 3/16 miles over the Mellon turf and the $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs over the main track.
Also featured on the card are the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls for older fillies and mares travelling 1 1/2 miles over the inner turf and the $120,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure for 4-year-olds and upward over the Mellon turf. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
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