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Foot Abscess Conserving Artwork Collector Out of Monmouth Cup

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Corridor of Fame coach Invoice Mott’s plan was to ship Artwork Collector  to the Jersey Shore to run within the $400,000 Monmouth Cup Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park July 22, but a foot abscess will keep the two-time grade 1 winner out of Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and older.

Until this minor physical setback, the race had timed up well for the 6-year-old Art Collector, who July 21 will come off a provisional suspension from the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit for violating a rule regarding intra-articular injections. Art Collector opened the year with a victory in the $2 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28.

“He was eligible to go,” Mott said outside his barn on the Oklahoma Training Track at Saratoga July 20. “He had a little foot abscess three or four days ago.”

Art Collector’s name appeared on a list of horses released by the HIWU, which administers the rules and enforcement mechanisms of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority’s (HISA) Anti-Doping and Medication Control program. His listed suspension was June 21-July 21.

On June 21 Art Collector received an intra-articular injection. HISA rules, which went into effect in May, state that horses that have had an intra-articular injection cannot race within 14 days of an injection and can’t have a work within seven days of such an injection.

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Art Collector had a five-furlong work on the Oklahoma on June 26, according to Equibase, and landed on the provisionally suspended list for 30 days.

“I worked the horse one day early; I didn’t even give it a second thought,” Mott said. “I was not supposed to work him for one more day and now they are making a federal crime out of it? It’s an easy mistake to make. I breezed the horse one day early. … I am looking at the horse. I’m trying to be a horse trainer.”

In late June HISA acknowledged misunderstanding about the rule on injections relative to workouts, with HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus saying some 50 trainers had violated the rule. Seeing that confusion, HISA opted to not enforce the 60-day suspensions of trainers called for when such violations occur. Citing equine safety, HISA left in place the part of the sanction that calls for 30 days of ineligibility from racing for the horse involved in such a work too close to an injection.

After allowing some time to get the word out, HISA has since gone back to fully enforcing the rule. That is to say, trainers now face a two-month suspension for an intra-articular injection too close to a workout.

“I am all for uniform rules and regulations, but uniform rules and regulations that make sense,” Mott said. “All of a sudden, they throw out all this stuff that doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Mott said the plan for Art Collector is still to travel to West Virginia for the $1 million Charles Town Classic (G2) on Aug. 25. Art Collector won the Charles Town Classic the past two years.

Contessa Still Basking in Becky’s Joker’s Glow

A week later and the Schuylerville glow is still bright at Barn 49 on the Oklahoma Training Track.

That is the summer home of Becky’s Joker  and she stood tall—she is 16.3 hands—in her stall July 20 on a sun-splashed morning.

A week ago, she came out running in her first career start and won the opening-day Schuylerville Stakes (G3) at
Saratoga Race Course by 3 1/4 lengths. At odds of 21-1.

Trainer Gary Contessa sat in a golf cart off his shed row and, yes, he’s still grinning about the performance turned in by the daughter of Practical Joke .

“She came back like she never ran,” Contessa said. “She is as sound as a bell of brass. She is happy. I took her back to the track and she jogged a few days and has been galloping ever since. Happy as a lark.”

The filly is owned by Contessa’s longtime client Lee Pokoik and was ridden by Javier Castellano.

Contessa still marvels at how professional Becky’s Joker performed in the Schuylerville. Winning first out is tough enough at Saratoga; to do it in a stakes is an enormous task.

Becky’s Joker with jockey Javier Castellano aboard made her move at the stretch and left the field to win the 105th running of The Schuylerville on opening day at the Saratoga Race Course July 13, 2023 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Photo  by Skip Dickstein
Photo: Skip Dickstein

Becky’s Joker wins the Schuylerville Stakes on opening day at Saratoga Race Course

“This filly, from the very beginning, was not only physically dominating, but mentally … she has the mind of a 4-year-old,” Contessa said. “She doesn’t care about anything. There are no distractions. She is all about being a racehorse. That is what made me so confident.”

Contessa said the plan remains for Becky’s Joker to wait until the 7-furlong, $300,000 Spinaway Stakes (G1) on Sept. 3. There has never been any talk of running the filly in the second Spa graded stakes for 2-year-old fillies, the 61/2-furlong, $200,000 Adirondack (G3) on Aug. 6.

“That just becomes too much,” he said. “I have seen horses run in all three and they disappear.”

The schedule Contessa hopes to keep with Becky’s Joker is the Frizette Stakes (G1), which will be run at Aqueduct Race Track this fall, and then the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).

“I think she will love a mile and a sixteenth at the Breeders’ Cup,” Contessa said. “We would love to wind up there.”

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