Collusion Illusion, who showed he was one of the top 3-year-old sprinters on the West Coast when he won the Lazaro Barrera Stakes (G3) in June, stacks up quite well with the older sprinters in California, too.
Racing Aug. 1 in the $251,500 Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) at Del Mar, the son of Twirling Candy closed from behind a blistering pace and held off a wide rally from Lexitonian to post a nose victory. Collusion Illusion's first grade 1 victory earned him an automatic paid berth into the Nov. 7 Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland.
Calumet Farm's Lexitonian, off a step slowly under Drayden Van Dyke, nearly gave trainer Jack Sisterson his second career grade 1 win mere hours after another Calumet runner, Vexatious, provided him with his first when she upset Midnight Bisou in Saturday's Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course.
Winning jockey Flavien Prat gave Collusion Illusion a favorable trip, settling him in seventh as five horses scrambled for the early lead through demanding fractions of :21.58 and :44.73 in the six-furlong race. Content to draft behind rivals, Prat allowed Collusion Illusion to follow the better-moving leaders, and once they grew fatigued in midstretch, he moved his mount down toward the inside.
Fourth with a furlong to run, Collusion Illusion powered past the leaders late, only to nearly get caught on the far outside by Lexitonian, who rallied from last. Collusion Illusion seemed to not be fully extending himself in the final yards, flicking an ear forward nearing the finish, perhaps not seeing his oncoming rival. He galloped out with energy.
"It set up nicely for me. They were going fast up front; I could feel it," said Prat. "My horse was handling the dirt well today, too. Better than he usually does. When we turned for home I had horses in front of me and I was aware the inside was playing fast today so I went down there. I got through and at the eighth pole I thought I was going to be an easy winner. Then I saw that horse on the outside coming and I wasn't so sure. But we got there."
The victory was Prat's fifth in the Bing Crosby in the past six years. The meet's leading rider now has six stakes wins during the early portion of Del Mar's summer meet, putting him on pace to challenge for the record of 13, set by Rafael Bejarano in 2012, according to track publicity. The meet runs through Sept. 7.
Collusion Illusion's time of 1:10.41 on a fast track was the slowest in the race since In Summation covered the distance in 1:11.06 on a synthetic surface in 2007. Trained by Mark Glatt and owned by Dan Agnew, Rodney Orr, Jerry Schneider, and John Xitco, Collusion Illusion returned $5.80 as the favorite in a field that was reduced to eight when P R Radio Star and morning-line favorite McKinzie were scratched.
McKinzie had been by far the most accomplished entrant. Some of the other top California sprinters were also not in the race, a few because they were sidelined.
Collusion Illusion improved to 5-for-6 with his third victory in as many starts this year. Besides the Laz Barrera at Santa Anita Park, he also won an allowance optional claiming race May 17 there in his first start at 3.
He won his first two starts last year, a July maiden race and the Best Pal Stakes (G2), both at Del Mar. He was pulled up in the 1 1/16-mile American Pharoah Stakes (G1) in September at Santa Anita in his final start at 2 and did not reappear until this spring.
Collusion Illusion gave him his first grade 1 win, but also running well for the trainer was Law Abidin Citizen, who races for the same group that owns Collusion Illusion.
"He hung in there very tough," Glatt said of Law Abidin Citizen. "He's a bit of an overachiever and I'm almost as proud of him as I am of Collusion Illusion. (Collusion Illusion) doesn't like dirt in his face and the way it set up he was going to have to go extremely wide to stay away from it. But the past couple days the rail has been getting better as a place to be and when he darted to the rail I knew he was going to be coming. I got a little worried if he was going to find a place to go, but he was able to and came through in the end."
Bred in Florida by Donald Dizney, Collusion Illusion was a $300,000 purchase by Glatt from Mayberry Farm's consignment to the 2019 Ocala Breeders' Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. He is the first foal out of the unraced First Dude mare Natalie Grace, a half sister to graded stakes winners Bahamian Squall and Apriority.