Art Collector has a masterpiece ride to win the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park

Al Diaz/

In what has been an all-or-nothing career for Art Collector, the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Saturday was nothing less than a masterpiece.

Art Collector and veteran jockey Junior Alvarado surged to a resounding 4 1/2-length victory over Defunded to claim victory in the third-richest race in North America.

“I knew when they turned for home and I saw him on the outside, I said this race is over,” said winning owner Bruce Lunsford.

Art Collector has had an uneven career, to say the least.

Entering Saturday, the horse had won 10 of his 20 starts. But he had finished off the board (worse than fourth) in nine of them. One of those duds — a fifth-place finish in the Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs in October — was his last previous race before Saturday.

But Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott gave the 6-year-old a winter freshening, assigned him a new jockey in the 36-year-old Alvarado, and watched with satisfaction as the tactics paid off.

“These are competitive races,” Mott said. “You get the horse as good as you can and hope the horse shows up.”

Art Collector did that.

Alvarado gave Art Collector a patient ride, settling just off the front-running pace set by Stilleto Boy and Defunded — two West Coast shippers — before mounting a wide charge on the final turn and drawing off for a convincing victory.

“I’ve really got to give him a lot of credit,” Mott said of Alvarado. “He rode the horse perfectly. We talked about it beforehand, how the race might shape it, and he rode him just the way we scripted it.”

Said Alvarado: “Sometimes when you leave the gates, plans change. But today, everything was meant to be. It worked out great. The horse put me in a great spot the whole way around and when I asked him to run, he was there for me. He gave me a [heck of a] run from the quarter pole to the wire.”

The Pegasus proved a disappointment for several of the other expected contenders. Betting favorite Cyberknife never threatened and finished sixth.

“He didn’t look like he fired to me,” trainer Brad Cox said of Cyberknife. “It wasn’t to be. It didn’t work out.”

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. saddled three starters — White Abarrio, Skippinglongstocking and O’Connor — and was left baffled by their disappointing performances.

White Abarrio, in particular, threw in a clunker. The horse had never before lost at Gulfstream. But he ran eighth in the Pegasus.

“I don’t think any of them ran to the way we expected,” Joseph said. “None of them fired.”

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who rode four winners on Saturday’s card, fell short aboard Defunded in the Pegasus.

“I had a beautiful trip,” said Ortiz, who had received the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding jockey of 2022 in ceremonies on Thursday. “We wanted to have a clear break and we had it. He put me in a perfect spot. I just got beat, second-best today.”

Defunded snagged second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Stilleto Boy, with 45-1 long shot Last Samurai another 1/2-length back in fourth.

Atone and jockey Ortiz Jr. survived a furious stretch battle to win the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, defeating Ivar by 3/4-length. Trained by Michael Maker for Three Diamonds Farm, Atone registered his first Grade 1 victory. City Man, the 7-2 favorite, finished last in the field of 12.

Queen Goddess had always fared poorly when she ventured outside of her home state of California. But her East Coast issues ended Saturday when she won the $500,000 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Invitational by 1 1/2 lengths over Shantisara.

The 5-year-old mare had finished fifth in each of her two previous races at tracks east of the Mississippi River but had never finished worse than third in any of her eight races in California.

But jockey Luis Saez maneuvered her to the front heading into the stretch in the 1 1/16-mile turf stakes and held off Shantisara for the win at odds of 4-1.