March 30, 2023

Art Collector returns in Kelly’s Landing

Art Collector
Art Collector notched his first stakes win in the Blue Grass Stakes (Coady Photography)

Friday’s $110,000 Kelly’s Landing Overnight S. at Churchill Downs marks the return of Art Collector, once a leading contender for last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1). Unraced since an eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), the Tom Drury trainee is drawn on the outside of a nine-horse field including Bango, Strike Power, and Aloha West.

Art Collector opens his four-year-old campaign at the same track and seven-furlong trip as his sophomore debut, when the Bruce Lunsford homebred rolled from off the pace in an allowance. After another allowance tally in frontrunning style around two turns, Art Collector joined the pandemic-prolonged Derby trail. Defeating champion filly Swiss Skydiver in the Blue Grass S. (G2) and dominating the Ellis Park Derby, he headed back to Churchill as the main challenger to favorite Tiz the Law.

Unfortunately, Art Collector came down with a minor but ill-timed foot issue that cost him a chance at the Kentucky Derby. Although he advanced to the Oct. 3 Preakness S. (G1), he tired to fourth behind Swiss Skydiver and Derby champ Authentic, and again ran below his best in the Breeders’ Cup.

Drury believes that Art Collector will be back in form on Friday with regular rider Brian Hernandez.

“We’ve done everything we can right now for his first race back,” Drury told the Churchill media team. “He worked a really good half-mile (Saturday in :47.40). He’s ready to go and we’re excited to get him back to the races.”

Only one of his rivals enters off a similar absence – Bourbon Calling, the Ack Ack S. (G3) runner-up who has not raced since his eighth in the Nov. 27 Clark S. (G1).

Bango, sixth after vying early in the Churchill Downs S. (G1) on Derby Day, showed that he could be effective with off-the-pace tactics in the May 29 Aristides S. Farther back than planned thanks to a slow start, the Greg Foley pupil rallied and held Long Range Toddy. Now they’ll get a rematch over an extra furlong that might suit Long Range Toddy better.

Strike Power exits a second in the May 15 Maryland Sprint (G3) on Preakness Day. Previously fourth to C Z Rocket and champion Whitmore in the Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) at Oaklawn, the Steve Asmussen charge promises to flash speed from post 2. Adding to that pace scenario are a couple stepping back up in class after running for tags – Home Base, a course-and-distance winner last out for Cipriano Contreras, and Relentless Dancer, just claimed back by Mike Maker.

The prospect of a strong tempo suits Aloha West in his stakes debut. Trained by Wayne Catalano, the Eclipse Thoroughbreds colorbearer capitalized in those circumstances to conquer an allowance at this track and trip. Rounding out the cast is Mucho, the 2018 Hopeful S. (G1) runner-up who descended into the claiming ranks but could be working his way back up with a fourth in the Maryland Sprint.