Art Collector Defends Title in Alydar


Photo: Coglianese Photos/Janet Garaguso
Art Collector wins the Alydar Stakes at Saratoga Race Course

Bruce Lunsford's homebred Art Collector  proved to be too much for his four rivals Aug. 4 at Saratoga Race Course, as he successfully defended his title in the $135,000 Alydar Stakes a nine-furlong test for older horses who have not won a stakes other than state-bred in 2022.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Art Collector has been on quite a journey since the last time he won the 2021 Alydar, making trips to West Virginia, California, and a last-out trip to Saudi Arabia in February when he finished off the board in the Saudi Cup (G1) before ultimately returning to the scene of his 3 1/2-length score last year.

Art Collector delivered a similar performance to 2021, taking his place at the front of the field and never looking back. Despite two off-the-board finishes in his last two outings, he returned to run as strong as ever as Luis Saez sat motionless aboard the son of Bernardini down the lane and they cruised home to a two-length victory.

Posting fraction of :24.60, :49.23, and 1:13.77, Art Collector held a comfortable advantage down the backstretch and into the turn for home. Masqueparade , who tracked in second throughout, made a bid at the top of the lane but couldn't catch Art Collector, who hit the wire under wraps in a time of 1:51.84 for the nine furlongs.

Masqueparade completed the exacta 7 1/2 lengths ahead of Chess Chief .

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Art Collector has shown versatility in his nine wins and has won from off the pace as well as on the lead. Mott said he was prepared for a potential challenge up front.

"We thought maybe if the outside horse (Masqueparade) wanted to go to the lead, we'd let him go and we'd have a target," said Mott. "But as it worked out, he was on the lead by himself. It looked like he was going easily enough and it looked like every time that horse ran to him, he just maintained the same advantage."

Saez echoed Mott's sentiments.

"He's a pretty cool horse to ride. He's pretty smart," Saez said. "He broke and controlled the pace. He switched leads at the point he's supposed to by himself, and he did everything beautiful."

Art Collector used his previous Alydar win as a springboard to graded stakes success in the Charles Town Classic Stakes (G2) and Woodward Stakes (G1) later that fall at Belmont Park. Mott said both of those races are spots circled as likely targets for Art Collector.

Lunsford and Mott have shared some memorable moments together, including a close second in the 1999 Belmont Stakes (G1) with homebred Vision and Verse. Lunsford went on to own and breed a graded stakes-placed half sister to Vision and Verse named Distorted Legacy, who produced Art Collector.

"He is a special horse. I love the horse. I love his rider," Lunsford said. "Luis and I go way back with his ex-agent (Richard DePass) and his current agent Kiaran (McLaughlin). It's just a great thrill for me to have a horse of this quality and the brothers and sisters and the mother."

Art Collector increased his total purse earnings to $1,729,555 and improved his record to 18-9-1-0. He returned $3.60 for a $2 win wager as the 4-5 post time favorite.