(Art Collector / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the Gulfstream Park Media Team:

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott was extremely pleased Sunday morning with the manner in which Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector exited his 15-1 upset victory in Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat.

“He’s happy. He was bright and alert and seemed to be feeling pretty good about himself,” Mott reported from Payson Park in Indiantown, FL.

Art Collector, who had established himself as a solid graded-stakes performer while earning more than $2.3 million in his 20 previous starts, turned in a career-best performance in the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup, the headliner on a 13-race program also featuring the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Qatar Racing and $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational (G3) presented by Pepsi.

“It’s strange. I knew he was doing well going into the race. I felt like he was training well, but you can’t really predict the outcome in a race like that,” Mott said. “There’s some nice horses in there and you don’t know much about the rest of them. I knew our horse was doing well. Did he exceed expectations? I wouldn’t say that because I didn’t know what to expect.”

Art Collector, who won the 2021 Woodward (G1) and back-to-back Charles Town Classics (G2) on the pace, rated kindly off a contested early pace before making a three-wide sweep to the lead under Junior Alvarado on his way to a 4 ½-length victory.

“We made a conscious decision yesterday to not run him off his feet and see if he could do it that way, and it worked out well. He’s had a good year already,” Mott said.

Plans for Art Collector have not been formalized.

“Anytime you’ve got a well-bred horse that’s a Grade 1 stakes winner, I think going to stud is always an option, and it’s just a matter of timing when you do it. I can’t say what was going on in [Lunsford’s] head. I don’t think that was the first thing that was on his mind though,” Mott said. “I think Bruce kind of entered the new year thinking he enjoys seeing him on the racetrack and I think he was prepared to continue on that route for the rest of the year if things got going well.”

Mott reported that Grade 1 winner Obligatory, who finished a disappointing sixth in the Inside Information (G2) as the 4-5 favorite, ‘seemed fine’ Sunday morning.

“I’m not sure whether they’ll give me another chance to run her back and see if she shows back up. If she doesn’t show back up, she obviously would have to go to the breeding shed,” Mott said. “We can do that anytime with her, being a filly. We have a couple months to make that decision, really. You’d have to kind of be thinking about it by mid-March. We haven’t had that discussion yet, but it was very disappointing [Saturday].

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. reported that his three Pegasus entrants exited their respective disappointing efforts in good order.

Skippylongstocking finished seventh, followed by White Abarrio in eighth and O’Connor in 11th.

“They came out of it good. It was a rough day, but we’ll move forward,” Joseph said. “We have nothing really planned. Everything kind of went up in smoke [Saturday}.”

(Trainer Mike Maker / Coady Photography)

Atone ‘In Good Order’ After Capping Big Day for Maker

Trainer Mike Maker reported Sunday that Three Diamonds Farm’s Atone emerged well from his breakthrough victory in Saturday’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Qatar Racing at Gulfstream Park.

Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., who won his third consecutive Pegasus Turf after back-to-back victories aboard Colonel Liam, Atone saved ground in mid-pack for the first half of the 1 1/8-mile race before being tipped out for a clear run at the top of the stretch and reeling in Group 1 winner Ivar nearing the wire.

“He came out of it in good order,” Maker said. “It’s impossible not to be impressed by the way he ran.”

Atone was just the sixth horse to run in the Pegasus Turf more than once, following Next Shares (2019-21), Sacred Life (2020, 2022), Channel Cat (2020, 2022), Cross Border (2021-22) and Colonel Liam (2021-22). Cross Border was also trained by Maker.

Before the Pegasus Turf, Atone had gone winless with three seconds and a third in eight graded-stakes attempts, and also finished fourth last year in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) and Pegasus Turf, beaten less than three lengths combined.

“I was very happy for him,” Maker said. “The Pegasus race is always very special and for a horse that’s always been knocking on the door and not quite getting there, it really meant a lot.”

Maker won the Pegasus Turf in 2020 with Michael Hui’s Zulu Alpha. Three Diamonds Farm has been involved in racing since the mid-2000s with its name derived from Kirk and Debra Wycoff’s three children.

“Michael Hui has been a longtime client and a good friend so it’s always special to win for him, and I can say the same for Three Diamonds,” Maker said. “They’ve been a long-time supporter of mine, so to win any big race for those guys is always very, very special.”

Atone’s race in the Pegasus Turf was his first since a front-running triumph in a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming allowance Nov. 10 on the Aqueduct turf. He went into last year’s race having run second in the Fort Lauderdale (G2) six weeks prior at Gulfstream.

“I thought [the time off] did him a world of good,” Maker said. “He runs well fresh and [Saturday] was no exception.”

Maker mentioned the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) March 25 at Fair Grounds and Turf Classic (G1) May 6 at Churchill Downs as possible upcoming targets for Atone, who passed the $1 million mark in career earnings with his Pegasus Turf victory. He stands at $1,179,146 with seven wins, four wins and four seconds from 23 starts.

Atone capped a huge day at Gulfstream for Maker, who also ran sixth in the Pegasus Turf with 74-1 long shot King Cause. Earlier in the day, Maker won the Fred W. Hooper (G3) with Endorsed and finished first, second, third and fifth in the William L. McKnight (G3) led by winner Red Knight.

On the day, Maker had three wins, one second and two thirds and earned $846,300 in purses. Prior to that he had a record of 29-4-3-4 with $154,615 in purses earned at the Championship Meet, which opened Dec. 26.

“It was a great day,” Maker said. “We were kind of in a slump there and to break out of it in that fashion felt great.”