It hasn’t been surprising to see Art Collector thrive racing on dirt this season, with a 3 1/2-length victory in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland and a 3 1/4-length triumph in the Ellis Park Derby serving as the latest testaments to his talent.
At the same time, it wasn’t surprising to see Art Collector try his hand over a wide variety of distances and surfaces as a juvenile, even debuting in a turf sprint. There are so many facets to Art Collector’s pedigree, one would have been hard-pressed to predict early on which conditions would ultimately prove ideal for the talented bay colt.
Bred in Kentucky by Bruce Lunsford, Art Collector is a son of Preakness (G1) winner Bernardini, the champion 3-year-old male of 2006. While Bernardini was a late-maturing runner who went unraced at two, at stud he’s sired all types—precocious juveniles, developing 3-year-olds, classy older horses, and Grade 1 winners on both dirt and turf.
In other words, Bernardini has been passing on genetics from all corners of his own pedigree. Thanks to sire A.P. Indy, winner of the Belmont Stakes (G1), Bernardini is able to impart stamina to his descendants. And thanks to dam Cara Rafaela, winner of the Hollywood Starlet (G1) as a juvenile and a daughter of Grade 1-winning miler Quiet America, Bernardini is able to pass on speed and precocity.
The bottom half of Art Collector’s pedigree is also impressively versatile. His dam Distorted Legacy achieved her signature victory on dirt, rallying from far behind a fast pace to win the 1 1/16-mile Sky Beauty S. at Belmont Park. But she was also an effective grass mare, finishing second in the 1 1/4-mile Flower Bowl (G1) and fourth by a length in the 1 3/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Distorted Legacy, in turn, is a daughter of Distorted Humor, North America’s leading sire of 2011. While Distorted Humor was best as a sprinter/miler, setting a 7-furlong track record in the Churchill Downs H. (G2), at stud he’s sired sprinters and routers, dirt horses and turf horses alike. First and foremost among his numerous Grade 1 winners are Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner Funny Cide and Belmont Stakes victor Drosselmeyer, who also claimed the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) during a productive career.
In the case of Distorted Legacy’s pedigree, the versatility of Distorted Humor is backed by the stamina of her Distorted Legacy’s dam, Ashland (G1) and Black-Eyed Susan (G2) runner-up Bunting. A daughter of Widener H. (G1) winner Private Account, Bunting is a half-sister to Illinois Derby (G2) winner Vision and Verse, runner-up by a head in the Belmont Stakes.
To date, Bernardini has sired three Kentucky Derby starters, and while none hit the board on the first Saturday in May, two of them—Stay Thirsty and Alpha—matured sufficiently over the summer to claim victories in the prestigious 1 1/4-mile Travers (G1) at Saratoga.
Now Art Collector is poised to become Bernardini’s fourth Derby starter, and the postponement of the Run for the Roses until Sept. 5 could significantly enhance his chances. If Art Collector follows the path of his predecessors and keeps improving with maturity, he’ll be a force to reckon with when the Churchill Downs starting gates belatedly open.