HENDERSON, KY – Bruce Lunsford homebred Art Collector galloped home much the best to win Sunday’s $200,000 Runhappy Ellis Park Derby and remain perfect in 2020.
Entering the event on a three-race win streak that includes the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) last time out, Art Collector was the 2/5 heavy favorite in the field of 12. With Brian Hernandez, Jr., in the saddle once again, Art Collector went straight to the lead heading into the clubhouse turn.
Truculent applied early pressure as Art Collector posted opening fractions of :23.33 and :46.74, but he gave up heading into the far turn while Dean Martini ranged up to make his bid. Art Collector rebuffed him approaching the 1/4 pole and straightened for home beginning to pull away.
Cruising confidently in the stretch, Art Collector was 3 1/4 easy lengths the best in a final time of 1:48.02 for the 1 1/8-mile fast dirt route.
“Our horse broke sharp and I put him in the race,” said Hernandez, Jr. “He was going quick enough, but at some point, I knew I’d be able to give him a breather. 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. He went the mile and 1/8 impressively today and we’re looking on to the next one.”
Attachment Rate was much the best of the rest, taking second by 5 1/4 lengths over Necker Island and Rowdy Yates. Completing the order of finish came Shared Sense, Dean Martini, Winning Impression, Anneau d’Or, Sprawl, Trident Hit, Little Menace, and Truculent.
Rogue Element did not draw into the race as an Also Eligible entry.
The Ellis Park Derby is part of the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Art Collector earned 50 points for the win, with Attachment Rate receiving 20 for second, Necker Island 10 for third, and Rowdy Yates 5 for fourth.
Art Collector’s win improved his overall record to 9-5-1-0 with $664,380 earned and kept his record perfect from 4 starts with trainer Tommy Drury. The 3-year-old Bernardini colt will next face off against Saturday’s Travers Stakes (G1) winner Tiz the Law in the Kentucky Derby on September 5, but Art Collector’s connections are not afraid of the current division leader.
“I look at the races that (Tiz the Law)’s run,” Lunsford said. “I’ve seen a lot of good horses over the years come to Churchill Downs. I don’t necessarily think the horses (Tiz the Law) has run against are a whole lot better than what we’ve run against and that we’ve beaten handily.”
Art Collector returned $2.80 to win, $2.20 to place, and $2.10 to show. Attachment Rate brought back $8 to place and $5.40 to show, while Necker Island paid $8 to show.