Kentucky Derby contender profile: Art Collector

July 15th, 2020

It isn’t every year a horse who debuted in a turf sprint winds up as a favorite to win the Kentucky Derby (G1), but Art Collector isn’t your everyday racehorse.

Bred and owned by Bruce Lunsford, Art Collector is a son of 2006 champion 3-year-old male Bernardini, out of the stakes-winning Distorted Humor mare Distorted Legacy, a classy campaigner who ran second in the 2011 Flower Bowl (G1) at 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Trained during his juvenile season by Joe Sharp, Art Collector first emerged under colors in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden dash over the Saratoga grass course, where he rallied from behind fast fractions to finish second in an encouraging debut.

He broke his maiden over 6 1/2 furlongs at Kentucky Downs, then tackled stakes company in the 1 1/16-mile Bourbon (G3) at Keeneland, where he ran evenly to finish seventh in a large field.

Art Collector might have enjoyed a successful career on grass, but Sharp elected to try the bay colt on dirt. It was a fateful decision that set in motion an impressive ascent through the ranks.

While Art Collector finished a troubled sixth in his debut over the main track, he looked like a completely different racehorse in his second try, when he splashed his way through a sloppy track at Churchill Downs to cross the wire first by 7 1/2 lengths in a 6-furlong allowance race.

After he took the winter off, Art Collector emerged better than ever as a 3-year-old. With Thomas Drury taking over training duties, the colt reiterated his fondness for Churchill Downs with back-to-back allowance wins over the Louisville oval. He was particularly dominant in a 1 1/16-mile event June 13, when he led all the way to score by 6 1/2 lengths, over future Indiana Derby (G3) winner Shared Sense.

A return to graded stakes company beckoned, and this time Art Collector was ready to roll.

Against  a dozen rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland, Art Collector tracked the pace and pulled clear down the homestretch to score by 3 1/2 lengths, in the snappy time of 1:48.11, which earned a career-best 104 Brisnet Speed rating.

Winning the Blue Grass garnered Art Collector 100 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, which guarantees the improving colt a spot in the Derby starting gate.

His raw talent has earned accolades, but his versatility is just as worthy of praise. He has won races setting the pace, stalking the leaders, and rallying from behind, an impressive combination for a young horse.

Art Collector is also bred to continue improving with maturity, and given the affinity he has displayed for Churchill Downs, it’s easy to conclude he’ll be a force to reckon with on the first Saturday in September.