Capitalizing on a destructive pace battle involving more than half the field, 19-10 favorite Collusion Illusion unleashed a perfectly-timed rally to secure a narrow victory in Saturday’s $251,500 Bing Crosby (G1) at Del Mar.
The 3-year-old son of Twirling Candy entered the 6-furlong race having never lost a sprint, his record culminating with a rousing triumph in the June 20 Lazaro Barrera (G3) against fellow sophomores. Facing older rivals while stepping into Grade 1 company presented a more difficult challenge, though a perfect set-up and a clutch ride from hot jockey Flavien Prat ultimately propelled Collusion Illusion to the winner’s circle.
Patience was the key to winning the Bing Crosby, if only because few of the other speedsters displayed any at all. Desert Law, Anyportinastorm, Law Abidin Citizen, Wildman Jack, and Fashionably Fast came barreling out of the starting gate at roughly equal speed, and after blazing the opening quarter-mile in :21.58, they were stacked across the track five in a row with barely a half-length between them.
In contrast, Collusion Illusion was reserved in seventh place, 3 1/2 lengths behind the pacesetters while leading only the slow-starting Lexitonian, who initially lost contact with the field and trailed by 10 1/2 lengths in the early going.
Collusion Illusion continued to race off the pace until the homestretch, at which point Prat deftly guided the bay colt between runners before diving to the inside. Law Abidin Citizen and Wildman Jack were faring best of the pacesetters, but after rocketing the half-mile in :44.73, both were leg-weary and ripe for the catching.
“It set up nicely for me. They were going fast up front; I could feel it,” said Prat, who has now won five of the last six renewals of the Bing Crosby. “My horse was handling the dirt well today, too. Better than he usually does. When we turned for home I had horses in front of me and I was aware the inside was playing fast today so I went down there.”
Collusion Illusion collared the leaders at the sixteenth pole, but the race wasn’t over. The favorite had to brace for a last-minute surge from Lexitonian, flying fast on the far outside. For a moment it appeared this final move would be the winning one, but the wire came just in time for Collusion Illusion, who flashed across the finish line a nose ahead of his rival in 1:10.41.
“I got through and at the eighth pole I thought I was going to be an easy winner,” continued Prat. “Then I saw that horse on the outside coming and I wasn’t so sure. But we got there.”
Law Abidin Citizen outdueled Wildman Jack by a neck for third place, while Heartwood, Fashionably Fast, Anyportinastorm, and Desert Law completed the order of finish. As expected, McKinzie was scratched, as was P R Radio Star who was cross-entered to the 6TH race Sunday.
Victorious in the Best Pal (G2) and a maiden race during the 2019 Del Mar summer meet, Collusion Illusion brought his local record to a perfect 3-for-3 while boosting his career tally to a near-perfect 5-for-6, with his lone defeat coming when he was pulled up in the 1 1/16-mile American Pharoah (G1) last fall.
Trained by Mark Glatt for the partnership of Dan J. Agnew, Rodney E. Orr, Jerry Scheider, and John V. Xitco, Collusion Illusion secured a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland and cemented his credentials as one of the best sophomore sprinters in training.
“We thought, looking on paper, they were going to go pretty fast,” said Glatt, who was securing his first Grade 1 win.
“(Collusion Illusion) doesn’t like dirt in his face and the way it set up he was going to have to go extremely wide to stay away from it. But the past couple days the rail has been getting better as a place to be and when he darted to the rail I knew he was going to be coming. I got a little worried if he was going to find a place to go, but he was able to and came through in the end.”
Produced by the First Dude mare Natalie Grace, Collusion Illusion was bred in Florida by Donald R. Dizney. A three-time stakes winner, Collusion Illusion has earned $398,751 and figures to add considerably to this total if he maintains his current level of form through summer and fall.