Tommy Drury didn’t get much sleep on Monday night of Kentucky Derby week. The trainer of one of the top Derby contenders, Art Collector, had found a decent-sized cut on the back of the colt’s right front hoof, apparently suffered during his Monday morning gallop.
Drury and owner/breeder Bruce Lunsford faced a difficult decision. The colt’s hoof was sensitive to the touch, and neither man wanted to subject the horse to the stress of the Run for the Roses unless he was 100 percent. Still, it would have been the first starter in the Kentucky Derby for both Drury and Lunsford, and making the decision to walk away from what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was challenging.
“It was certainly difficult,” Drury said on an NTRA teleconference this Monday. “The Derby is a race of a lifetime for a horse trainer. At end of day, the responsibility we have is to put the horse first. It would not have been fair to lead him over there knowing there was an issue going on. It was a no-brainer. We want our horse to be good for the long haul, not just one race.”
Instead, Art Collector will be the 5-2 second choice in this Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. He’ll face a field of 11, including Kentucky Derby winner Authentic (9-5 favorite) and Kentucky Oaks runner-up Swiss Skydiver (6-1).
Art Collector, a 3-year-old son of Bernardini, won the G2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in July. He stalked the pace in that race, then won the Ellis Park Derby with a solid frontrunning display. That versatility in tactics gives Drury a bit of confidence heading into the Preakness Stakes.
“He has a little stop and go to him,” Drury explained, adding that jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. is very familiar with Art Collector’s style. “You can use him and get him going again if you need to. In a race like this, that can be beneficial.”
The post position, three, won’t be an issue for Art Collector either, Drury said. The colt is quick enough to get out of the gate and near the lead, and tactical enough for Hernandez to be able to take back off the pace if others decide to go.
No matter what happens this Saturday, Drury is looking forward to the future with Art Collector. This year, the Breeders’ Cup Classic is the likely next stop on the colt’s schedule, and Drury will also look for Art Collector to return as a 4-year-old.
“Art Collector is a very special horse to us,” summarized Drury. “He has taken my career to places I’ve never dreamed it would go. I’ve not had anything like him ever before.”
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