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ELMONT, NY – Art Collector went to the front and led gate to wire in the $500,000 Woodward (G1), one of three graded stakes centered around the Champagne Stakes (G1) Saturday at Belmont Park.
Also on the 11-race card, Sail By won the $200,000 Miss Grillo (G2) and Arrest Me Red won the $200,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational (G3).
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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 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 Preakness Stakes (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
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 7 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 in the Alydar on August 6 at Saratoga, and he followed up with a 1 1/2-length score in the Charles Town Classic (G2) 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 7/8. 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 1/4-mile and 47.78 for the 1/2 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 3/4 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 1/2 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 9 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 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) 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 1/4. A mile and 1/8 hasn’t been a problem for him, so why would I cut him back?”
Maxfield, a Godolphin homebred with 5 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 Whitney (G1) 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 1/2 lengths clear of fourth-place finisher and 2019 Runhappy Travers (G1) hero Code of Honor.
“I don’t know that we had a lot of excuses,” said Walsh, who has trained Maxfield to victory in 7 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.
Treadway Racing Stable’s Sail By, ridden by Junior Alvarado, captured the Miss Grillo going 1 1/16 miles for juvenile fillies over the firm inner turf course.
Trained by Leah Gyramati, Sail By returned to the grass after a third-place finish in the off-the-turf P.G. Johnson, contested at 7 furlongs over a fast main track on September 2 at Saratoga Race Course.
Breaking from the rail, Sail By tracked front-running longshot Charlee O, piloted by Manny Franco, as the two fillies quickly separated from their competitors through splits of 23.59 seconds, 49.40, and 1:14.46.
Alvarado moved Sail By closer to the leader as the field rounded the far turn and hit the front for the stretch drive with plenty in the tank.
Sail By was able to hold off a late challenge from Chad Brown-trained runners – Kinchen and the heavy favorite McKulick – securing a 1-length victory in a final time of 1:43.21. Kinchen completed the exacta by a head over McKulick.
“She broke very sharply,” Alvarado said, “She was laying second beautifully and was relaxing nicely. I knew I was going to have horse turning for home.”
A maiden winner at first asking sprinting 6 furlongs in June on the Belmont turf with Alvarado up, Sail By followed with a closing second in the 5-furlong Colleen in August at Monmouth Park ahead of her P. G. Johnson third.
Alvarado said he felt his filly would handle the added distance.
“I always thought she wouldn’t have a problem stretching out,” Alvarado said. “I was hoping she wouldn’t get too sharp at the beginning. I knew she would get the distance, for sure.”
Gyarmati said the game plan was to take a wait-and-see approach.
“We really didn’t have a big plan. We had the one-hole and she looked in the paddock like she was pretty sharp,” Gyarmati said. “I’m glad he [Alvarado] did things just as he did. He let her break and she broke really well and the other horse went which was perfect because it got her to settle.”
Gyarmati said she will confer with owner-breeder Jeff Treadway regarding a potential start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) on November 5 at Del Mar.
“Any time you’re even thinking about having that kind of opportunity is wonderful,” Gyarmati said. I’ll have to talk to Jeff, but I’m sure he is game and wants to go. That’s a conversation we’ll have to have.”
Tyler Gaffalione, aboard the runner-up Kinchen, acknowledged moderate fractions hurt his filly’s chances.
“There wasn’t much pace in the race today,” Gaffalione said. “I didn’t want to take my filly out of her element. She’s still inexperienced but learning with each race. It was definitely a huge improvement today.”
Philly Eagles completed the superfecta. Hail To and pacesetter Charlee O rounded out the field.
Sail By returned $26.60 for a $2 win bet and improved her record to 4-2-1-1 and now sports earnings of $193,900. Both career wins have come over the Belmont turf.
Bred in Kentucky by her owner, Sail By is a daughter of Astern out of the Johar mare Fly By.
Lael Stables homebred Arrest Me Red led gate to wire in the Belmont Turf Sprint, a 6-furlong inner turf test for 3-year-olds and up.
Trained by Wesley Ward and aggressively handled from post 2 by Irad Ortiz Jr., Arrest Me Red was sent straight to the front through splits of 22.33 seconds and 45.75 over the firm footing with Guildsman pressing in second position.
Pulsate, with Manny Franco up, loomed large through the turn with the Eric Cancel-piloted Chewing Gum also ranging in contention, but Arrest Me Red continued to find more at the top of the lane and stayed on strong for a 1-length win in a final time of 1:07.86.
Pulsate completed the exacta by 3/4 of a length over Chewing Gum.
The victory marked the third Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational win for Ortiz Jr. following scores with Disco Partner in 2017-18.
“He relaxed so well. He did everything right, honestly,” Ortiz Jr. said. “He broke well from the gate, and I just stayed quiet and relaxed. I was on the front, so I just was biding my time to go. He was travelling perfectly and when I asked him to run, he responded really well. Wesley did a great job with him. He’s a great guy to ride for.”
Arrest Me Red was sent to post as the 2/1 mutuel favorite out of a neck score in the 5 1/2-furlong Mahony, contested over firm turf on August 11 at Saratoga Race Course in his first start for Ward.
The 3-year-old Pioneerof the Nile bay made his first 4 starts for trainer Arnaud Delacour, which included a score in the 6-furlong Atlantic Beach in November on firm turf at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Rounding out the order of finish were Backtohisroots, Therapist, Guildsman, and Buy Land and See. Piedi Bianchi and Belgrane were scratched.
A Kentucky homebred, Arrest Me Red banked $110,000 in victory while improving his record to 4 wins from 6 starts. He paid $6.60 for a $2 win wager.
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