Rising star Art Collector painted a beautiful picture in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland. The son of Bernardini passed the popular filly Swiss Skydiver in the stretch and won with authority for his third win in three tries under new trainer Thomas Drury Jr.
In terms of his trip, Art Collector did not experience any major issues under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. Nevertheless, he vaulted himself into the discussion of top 3-year-olds pointing towards the Kentucky Derby.
First, here is a recap of his trip.
Art Collector broke well and took an upfront position before the turn.
As expected, though, Art Collector did not contest Shivaree. After the turn, he also let Swiss Skydiver cross over, and the filly took the lead.
After an opening 23.25 and half-mile in 46.61, Swiss Skydiver continued to hold a small advantage over Shivaree. Art Collector stalked the leaders in third, while Man in the Can followed right behind in fourth.
On the far turn, Shivaree checked out of the picture. Swiss Skydiver still moved strongly on the lead, but faced pressure now from Art Collector. Rushie rallied outside of the top duo and began to look like a threat too.
As Swiss Skydiver blazed through six furlongs in 1:10.63, the top three horses separated from the field.
Rushie could not sustain the bid, though. It became a two-horse race between Swiss Skydiver, who still fought, and a relentless Art Collector.
In midstretch, Art Collector finally gained the advantage as a frustrated Swiss Skydiver failed to match strides. While switching back to his wrong lead late, Art Collector pulled clear once he asserted authority to capture the Blue Grass by a clear 3 1/2 lengths.
What happened to Swiss Skydiver? Pace and distance both took their toll. She ran hard to secure the lead and discourage Shivaree, and perhaps the longer distance affected her too in the stretch run.
The only visible flaw for Art Collector was switching to his wrong lead. It is not a huge deal because he still won. Otherwise, he did everything right, from flashing good tactical speed to secure position, to moving with Swiss Skydiver on the far turn, to outdueling her in the stretch run.
By getting the best of Swiss Skydiver, Art Collector defeated either the best or second best 3-year-old filly in the country.
Look at who else Art Collector beat.
The third-place Rushie finished 8 1/4 lengths behind Art Collector. Previously, he finished third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Enforceable only managed to close from 10th to fourth, 8 1/2 lengths behind Art Collector. His resume included a win in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) and a runner-up finish in the Risen Star Stakes (G2). Last fall, he also finished fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), only 1 1/4 lengths behind the third-place Tiz the Law.
What about the sixth-place Mr. Big News? A few months ago, he won the Oaklawn Stakes.
Finnick the Fierce flattened out to seventh. Three starts ago, he finished third in the second division of the Arkansas Derby (G1) before chasing Art Collector to no avail in an optional claimer and in the Blue Grass.
Art Collector won over some good horses beyond Swiss Skydiver. Regardless, Swiss Skydiver is enough evidence of a quality field. Remember, Swiss Skydiver’s TimeformUS figures were on par with Art Collector’s recent win, giving her no excuse from a figure standpoint.
Given his tactical speed and newfound class, Art Collector is a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender. For those searching for a Tiz the Law alternative, think about Art Collector.
Guarana fights back against Mia Mischief
Earlier in the Blue Grass card, Guarana took the Madison Stakes to give trainer Chad Brown his 100th Grade 1 victory as a trainer. But the incredible feat almost did not happen, as Guarana was in deep waters.
Guarana surprisingly reached the lead in the early stages, while Mia Mischief opted to flank Guarana in second through an opening quarter in a sluggish 22.95. Despite the slow pace, the other speed Amy’s Challenge received a tight hold under Joel Rosario in third.
Wildwood’s Beauty raced along the inside in fourth, and Bell’s the One traveled close to the leaders in fifth.
After a half-mile in 45.92, Mia Mischief went to the attack.
The two of them battled at the top of the stretch. Mia Mischief moved forward to the lead and appeared set to win her second Grade 1. But somehow, Guarana fought and regained the lead toward the wire.
It proved a heartbreaking defeat for those who bet Mia Mischief at 8-1.
Odds and value aside, though, Guarana earned the win and picked up her third Grade 1 race in only six lifetime starts.
Mia Mischief did regain respect through the runner-up effort after a seemingly flat third in the Winning Colors Stakes (G3) to Bell’s the One.
As for Bell’s the One, without a closer bias or speed duel setting up her closing run, she only managed to hold third, 3 3/4 lengths behind Guarana. Look for her to bounce back in a race with more early pace.
Venetian Harbor loses Ashland to Speech
To touch upon Venetian Harbor briefly, perhaps the speedy filly does not belong in the nine-furlong Kentucky Oaks.
Venetian Harbor enjoyed a comfortable lead in the Ashland Stakes (G1), setting the pace through 24.04, 47.14 and 1:10.44 fractions. But in the stretch run, she conceded the lead to Speech, and Speech pulled away to win by three lengths.
If Venetian Harbor cannot handle Speech after an uncontested lead in the Ashland, how can she handle Speech in the Kentucky Oaks after taking pressure from stars in Gamine and Swiss Skydiver? If those two fillies show up, the task seems impossible for Venetian Harbor.
Venetian Harbor’s damline traces back to Safely Kept, the incredible filly who won the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Sprint over males. Venetian Harbor is also a daughter of Munnings, another sprinter/miler influence.
At this point, it is logical to assume Venetian Harbor wants a mile or less.