Rather than being 15-1, there was a day when winning the Grade 1 Pegasus at Gulfstream Park would have been the expected result from Art Collector, a handsome son of champion racehorse and sire Bernardini (by A.P. Indy).
At the midpoint of the horse’s 3-year-old season, few if any of his contemporaries were rated more highly than Art Collector, winner of four straight races and both the Blue Grass Stakes and Ellis Park Derby during the weird summer of 2020, when Covid-19 had derailed the scheduling for the Triple Crown.
That year, the Preakness Stakes was raced last of the series, after Tiz the Law (Constitution) had won the 2020 Belmont Stakes over nine furlongs in June and Authentic (Into Mischief) had clipped the Belmont winner in the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. Authentic was the favorite for the Preakness, raced on Oct. 3, with Art Collector the second choice, but both were upset by the swashbuckling filly Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil), with Authentic second and Art Collector fourth.
Then Art Collector went a bit off the path, but he has kept on racing and winning at the highest level. From 21 starts, the horse has won 11 races, and it’s either won or done for Art Collector because he has nine off the board, with a second only in his debut. (The horse actually finished first in yet another but was disqualified due to a medication positive prior to being transferred to Bill Mott’s training stable.)
One of the fascinating things about Art Collector is that he has remained in training, remained sound, and has retained his level of ability through the beginning of his 6-year-old form. He came back at four to win a trio of races culminating in the G1 Woodward Stakes, then returned last year, after a debacle in the G1 Saudi Cup, to win a listed stakes at Saratoga and then the G2 Charles Town Classic. The Pegasus was his seasonal debut.
This winner of $4 million was bred in Kentucky by Bruce Lunsford from a family of historic vintage and classic character.
The Pegasus winner is out of the stakes winner Distorted Legacy (Distorted Humor), also bred by Lunsford, and Distorted Legacy won the Sky Beauty Stakes at Belmont and was stakes-placed three times. She showed the best form of her career with a second in the G1 Flower Bowl Invitational and with a fourth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly Turf, beaten a length by Perfect Shirl (Perfect Soul).
Distorted Legacy is one of four stakes horses out of Bunting (Private Account). Bunting had won a maiden at Saratoga as a juvenile, then proceeded to race competitively in graded stakes at three, placing second in the G1 Ashland at Keeneland and in the G2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico in 1994. Then, Lunsford and partners purchased the 3-year-old filly out of the Greentree racing stable dispersal at the 1994 Keeneland November sale for $500,000, with Seth Hancock signing the ticket, and Bunting won an allowance and placed in two others for her new owners before retiring to stud the following spring.
There, she met with immediate success from her mating to leading sire Storm Cat. The resulting colt was named Vision and Verse, and he became a graded stakes winner. The scopy bay came home first in the G2 Illinois Derby, but he gained even more notice for seconds in the G1 Belmont Stakes and the Travers. Both of those seconds were to Lemon Drop Kid (Kingmambo) by a head and three-quarters of a length, respectively. After earning slightly more than $1 million, Vision and Verse was sent to stud in Kentucky at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm.
Bunting’s second foal for Lunsford was the Broad Brush mare Broadway Express, who won twice and placed second in the 2000 Sam Houston Oaks. Bunting also produced Performing Diva, a full sister to Vision and Verse who ran second in the 2005 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland. Then in 2007, Bunting foaled Distorted Legacy.
Bunting was a daughter of the Hoist the Flag mare Flag Waver, winner of the Rampart Handicap and the third stakes winner out of Bebopper (Tom Fool). The mare’s previous stakes winners were leading sire Stop the Music (Hail to Reason), winner of the Champagne Stakes (on the disqualification of Secretariat for nudging the other colt out of his way) and the Dwyer; and Hatchet Man (The Axe), winner of the G1 Widener and Haskell, as well as the Dwyer. Both were successful sires, especially Stop the Music, sire of Belmont Stakes and Travers winner Temperence Hill, who was champion 3-year-old colt; the G1 winners Dontstop Themusic (Spinster, Vanity), Music Merci (Del Mar Futurity), and Cure the Blues (Laurel Futurity), plus G2 winner Play On, also second in the 1984 Preakness.
Greentree bred all the foals out of Bebopper and raced them. The operation acquired this family with the purchase of the French-bred Bebop (Prince Bio), a stakes-placed half-sister to 1954 Oaks winner Sun Cap (Sunny Boy) and 1952 Prix Jean Prat winner La Varende (Blue Moon). Another of Bebop’s daughters, the stakes-placed Stepping High (No Robbery), is the dam of Peter Pan Stakes winner Buckaroo, the sire of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck.
The family had shown its classic quality in Europe, and the pursuit of the classics was clearly Greentree’s intention in acquiring and breeding the mares the way they did. Lunsford has followed suit, and it has paid off with quality racers and now a Pegasus champ.