Art Collector romps again in Ellis Park Derby

Aug 10, 2020 J. Keeler Johnson

One day after Tiz the Law cemented his Kentucky Derby credentials with a runaway victory in the Travers (G1), the up-and-coming Art Collector responded with a thoroughly dominant triumph of his own in the Ellis Park Derby.

Victory in the 1 1/8-mile race was hardly unexpected for Art Collector, who entered off a 3 1/2-length win in Keeneland’s Blue Grass (G2). A son of Bernardini out of the Distorted Humor mare Distorted Legacy, Art Collector entered the Ellis Park Derby with a perfect 3-for-3 record in 2020 and was favored at 2-5 to defeat 11 rivals.

But Art Collector seemed bored with the notion of winning the Ellis Park Derby in a well-measured manner. Instead, he elected to flaunt his dominance in a manner befitting an odds-on favorite. With jockey Brian Hernandez aboard for trainer Tommy Drury, the Bruce Lunsford homebred broke alertly and managed to secure the lead through testing splits of :23.33, :46.74, and 1:10.70.

Longshot Truculent and Ohio Derby (G3) winner Dean Martini endeavored to push Art Collector at various points in the journey, but they were clearly running short of steam on the far turn. Attachment Rate launched a more substantial bid at the top of the stretch, but Art Collector turned him back with ease, drawing clear under minimal urging from Hernandez to romp home by 3 1/4 lengths.

“Our horse broke sharp and I put him in the race. He was going quick enough but at some point I knew I’d be able to give him a breather,” said Hernandez. “He was able to take a breather going into the second turn. And once he did that, I was pretty confident in him. From the stretch home he was in himself and cruising along. He seemed to enjoy himself.”

Art Collector crossed the finish line in a snappy 1:48.02, just 0.42 off the track record set in 1988, and he certainly could have won by more if asked. Attachment Rate stayed on strongly to gain the runner-up spot, 5 1/4 lengths clear of Necker Island, but he never seriously challenged the winner.

Rowdy Yates finished fourth, holding off a belated late rally from Indiana Derby (G3) winner Shared Sense to complete the superfecta. Dean Martini, Winning Impression, Anneau d’Or, Sprawl, Trident Hit, Little Menace, and Truculent trailed the field.

“This is huge. We’re going into the Derby now with a legitimate horse,” continued Hernandez. “Like we said after the Blue Grass, he’s proven he’s getting better and better with each race. He showed it again today. He put everyone away. He did it all on his own and ran away from there.”

“It’s a big day for us,” agreed Drury. “We got what we were looking for. We wanted to get enough out of this without overdoing it. Brian even mentioned coming to the eighth pole that he was going a little too easy, so he let the reins out a notch just to let him finish on up. He was going away from the end of it and that’s kind of been him every race this year. That’s all you can ask of one. Every time we throw something at him, he answers the question and handles it with flying colors.”

In addition to the winner’s share of the $200,000 purse, Art Collector collected 50 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, giving him 150 points total to rank third on the leaderboard.

Earlier on the card, Mundaye Call proved a dominant winner of the Audubon Oaks, securing 10 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. Sent straight to the lead by jockey Florent Geroux, the daughter of Into Mischief always looked like a winner, carving out splits of :22.25, :45.11, and 1:08.92 before powering clearly effortlessly down the homestretch to win the 7-furlong race by 7 1/4 lengths,

Despite never being asked for her best run, Mundaye Call flew to the finish line in 1:21.17, eclipsing the track record of 1:21.37 set in 2004. Ocean Breeze secured the runner-up spot over Sconsin, with Truth Hurts, Casual, Misty Blue, Lastchanceforlove, Street of Dreams, Compelling Smile, Spartanka, and Hello Beautiful completing the order of finish.

“(Mundaye Call) has been working extremely well in the morning. We’ve been very high on her,” remarked Geroux. “You never expect a track record. But we expected a big race for her today.”

A maiden winner and Grade 1 competitor as a juvenile, Mundaye Call has come back better than ever in 2020. A decisive allowance win sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland served as a prelude to Mundaye Call’s triumph at Ellis Park, and judging from the way Mundaye Call dominated the Audubon Oaks, it appears the sky is the limit for this OXO Equine runner.

Although Mundaye Call has never run farther than 7 furlongs, winning trainer Brad Cox indicated Mundaye Call would at least be considered for a start in the Kentucky Oaks. 

“I’ll talk to Larry (Best of OXO Equine), see if that’s something he wants to entertain.”

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