Art Collector picture perfect in G1 Woodward

October 2, 2021

To close out the stakes action on a lucrative card at Belmont Park, the resurgent Art Collector kept the momentum going by taking the newly repositioned Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward for 3-year-olds and up, back at its former home of Belmont for the first time since 2006 when it was moved to Saratoga Race Course and traditionally run there on closing weekend.

At one time a leading contender for the 2020 Kentucky Derby, a race he ultimately missed due to injury, Art Collector’s sophomore season went out with a whimper as he was well-beaten in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Grade 1 Preakness.

His 4-year-old campaign got off to an equally inauspicious start on June 25 at Churchill Downs, where he finished a non-threatening sixth in the Kelly’s Landing at seven furlongs. Following that race, the once-promising son of Bernardini was transferred to the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who wasted no time reviving his career.

In his first start with Mott, Art Collector went wire-to-wire to win the Alydar on August 6 at Saratoga, and he followed up with a 1 ½-length score in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic on August 27. Despite his obvious form reversal, Art Collector remained overshadowed heading into the Woodward by the even more accomplished Maxfield, who was sent off as the odds-on favorite.

“He was in great shape,” said Mott, who inherited the talented colt from Kentucky-based horseman Tom Drury. “He had the winter off and he was a fresh horse. They ran him at Churchill once going seven-eighths. It was an odd race. He didn’t have the greatest trip. When he came to me, he had a race under his belt and was ready to go. He’s done well since we had him.”

A clear second choice in the betting at 5-2, the Bruce Lunsford-homebred Art Collector broke well and went straight to the front under Luis Saez, with the pair setting reasonable splits of 24.02 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.78 for the half as longshot Mo Gotcha tracked in second and Maxfield tucked in at the rail while just off the pace.

Art Collector continued to barrel along on the lead as the field departed the long backstretch at Belmont through three-quarters in 1:12.12, and he maintained his advantage around the turn and into the stretch as a host of pursuers lined up to take their shots.

Maxfield appeared the most serious challenger to Art Collector on the inside, but Dr Post also launched a menacing rally on the outside to threaten the leader, though both were forced to chase in vain as Art Collector was unyielding down the lane, hitting the wire first by 1 ½ lengths to notch his first career Grade 1 victory.

“It was a wonderful race,” said Saez. “I had a lot of confidence in my horse. He always tries so hard. He always comes with a run and finishes with run and today he ran his race. We expected to be on the lead. He broke so well and he was able to control the pace. That was an exciting race.”

Completing all nine panels of the Woodward in 1:49.22, Art Collector returned $7.50 on a $2 win wager and crossed over the $1.5 million threshold in career earnings. The win was his eighth from 15 career starts, and although the Woodward is not a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Del Mar, Mott said he sees no reason to shy away from a potential date in the handicap division’s premier event.

“I’m not afraid,” said the trainer. “I’ll talk to Mr. Lunsford. He makes the final decision, but I don’t know what we have to lose. I’d run him a mile and a quarter. A mile and an eighth hasn’t been a problem for him, so why would I cut him back?”

Maxfield, a Godolphin homebred with five graded stakes wins to his credit, was forced to settle for the runner-up spot for the second race in a row, having last played bridesmaid to the talented Knicks Go in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 7 at Saratoga.

Trained by Brendan Walsh and ridden by Jose Ortiz, Maxfield, who raced with the addition of blinkers, finished a length ahead of Dr Post in third, who was 2 ½ lengths clear of fourth-place finisher and 2019 Grade 1 Runhappy Travers hero Code of Honor.

“I don’t know that we had a lot of excuses,” said Walsh, who has trained Maxfield to victory in seven of 10 career starts. “We had a good spot even if it was down inside a little bit. All credit to the winner. He ran a good race and he’s a good horse. We ran a good race to be second. This horse doesn’t let us down ever.

“I don’t think [the blinkers] made a whole lot of a difference,” he added of the recent equipment change. “They definitely weren’t a negative in any way. Jose said he ran a good race and found the gears he wanted him to find, but he just got outrun by a horse that was better on the day.”

Art Collector’s stablemate Forza Di Oro and Mo Gotcha completed the order of finish.

Live racing returns Sunday at Belmont Park with a 10-race card featuring the Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette [Race 9], a one-turn mile for 2-year-old fillies offering a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; the Grade 2, $200,000 Pilgrim [Race 4], a 1 1/16-mile turf test for juveniles; and the Grade 3, $300,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya [Race 8], an 11-furlong inner turf test for fillies and mares. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.

America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the fall meet at Belmont Park on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.

NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont Park, and the best way to bet every race of the fall meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.

For info on the Best Breeders’ Cup Seminar click HERE

Belmont Park Press Release

Photo: Art Collector, (NYRA Photo)

Louis & @ItsMeGinoB talk next w/@jonathanstettin about today’s races & the amazing Ruffian piece he wrote this week. twitter.com/PastTheWire/st…

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