BALTIMORE — Art Collector is ready to take a second shot at his first chance for glory in one of thoroughbred racing’s most high-profile events. So is his trainer.
Tommy Drury will start a horse in a Triple Crown race for the first time when he saddles Art Collector in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, which will be the final leg of the prestigious series for the first time in its 145-year history. And now that Drury’s wait is over, Art Collector looks like the biggest threat to Kentucky Derby winner Authentic at what will be a mostly empty Pimlico Race Course.
Drury was poised to make his Triple Crown debut at the Kentucky Derby in early September until he discovered something was wrong with Art Collector, arguably the best horse he has ever had in his barn. Drury made the difficult decision to scratch him the day of the draw for the race at Churchill Downs in Lexington.
“The Kentucky Derby’s a race of a lifetime for a horse trainer, but at the end of the day, the ultimate responsibility that we have is to put our horse first,” Drury said. “It just wouldn’t have been fair to him to leave him over there, especially at that level of competition, and ask him to run his very best race knowing that there was an issue going on.”
And now Art Collector is set to race, four weeks after Drury took no risks with his impressive colt.
“We’re certainly going to stand by that decision, and there’s no looking back at this point,” Drury said. “We’re focused on the Preakness and what we can do down the road. Our horse is good right now, and we’re ready to take our best shot.”
Art Collector is the 5-2 second choice after 9-5 favorite Authentic, who if he wins would make trainer Bob Baffert a perfect 6-for-6 in taking the Kentucky Derby winner to the Preakness. The post time is 5:45 p.m., and there will be no fans on hand, with only select horse owners, trainers and other essential personnel allowed at the venue because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Baffert, who also has Thousand Words in the 11-horse field, is looking for his record-breaking eighth Preakness victory. He and Drury rode in the same golf cart at Churchill Downs prior to the race, and that’s about all they have shared. The two had never met before, and while Baffert has swept the Triple Crown twice and won 16 races in the series, Drury has never even started a horse in it until now.
A popular pick to win in Kentucky before getting scratched, Art Collector is finally putting Drury in the spotlight after more than 30 years in the business.
“He’s taken my career to places that I never dreamed it would go, and he’s just a member of the family,” Drury said. “I’ve not had anything like him ever before.”
Art Collector’s performance in a race at Churchill Downs in June caught Eddie Olczyk’s eye.
“He just looked like a monster,” said Olczyk, an NBC Sports analyst who questioned why former trainer Joe Sharp didn’t try Art Collector in two-turn races on the dirt last year. “I just think, for me, what has happened is this horse is running the distance and running on the surface that he was bred to run on. I think the sky’s the limit for this horse.”
If Authentic runs his best race like he did in the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, he’s probably not losing to any of the top challengers: Art Collector, filly Swiss Skydiver, Kentucky third-place finisher Mr. Big News or NY Traffic, who challenged him down the stretch in the Haskell Stakes in July.
Starting with the Derby, Baffert switched to jockey John Velazquez, who gave Authentic a masterful ride and will try to do the same in the pursuit of his first Preakness win.
“I’ve been chasing this race for quite a bit,” Velazquez said. “You hope that this is it, that this horse is going to do it for me.”
Velazquez expects to take Authentic out to the front again and wonders if the pace will be slower without Tiz the Law, who was the Kentucky Derby runner-up after winning the Belmont Stakes on June 20. Owned by Sackatoga Stable and trained by Barclay Tagg, Tiz the Law is busy preparing for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, set for Nov. 7.
“He’s pretty quick,” Velazquez said of Authentic. “I just have to switch him a little bit. He’ll be on the lead no matter what.”
Art Collector is looking to beat Authentic 20 years after a similar upset of a Kentucky Derby winner by another contender, when Red Bullet defeated Fusaichi Pegasus in the Preakness. Jockey Jerry Bailey knew he had to make his move aboard Red Bullet before Fusaichi Pegasus did and figured he’d need a better 1 3/16-mile trip to win.
It’s a recipe Brian Hernandez could follow with Art Collector.
“If I were riding the race, I would certainly know that you cannot let Authentic get away with anything easy early in the race,” said Bailey, who’s now part of the NBC broadcast team. “You’ve got to challenge him at some point earlier than he was challenged in the Derby, or you’re probably not going to beat him.”
RACE DAY IN MARYLAND
The 11-horse field for the 145th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, by starting post number (with horse’s owners, trainer, jockey and odds listed in parentheses):
1. Excession (Calumet Farm; Steve Asmussen; Sheldon Russell; 30-1)
2. Mr. Big News (Allied Racing Stable; W. Bret Calhoun; Gabriel Saez; 12-1)
3. Art Collector (Bruce Lunsford; Tommy Drury; Brian Hernandez Jr.; 5-2)
4. Swiss Skydiver (Peter J. Callahan; Kenny McPeek; Robby Albarado; 6-1)
5. Thousand Words (Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm; Bob Baffert; Floretn Geroux; 6-1)
6. Jesus’ Team (Grupo Seven C Stable; Jose Francisco D’Angelo; Jevian Toledo; 30-1)
7. NY Traffic (John Fanelli, Cash Is King LLC, LC Racing, Paul Braverman and Team Hanley; Saffie Joseph Jr.; Horacio Karamanos; 15-1)
8. Max Player (George E. Hall and Sport BLX Thoroughbreds; Steve Asmussen; Paco Lopez; 15-1)
9. Authentic (Spendthrift Farm, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables and MyRaceHorse Stable; Bob Baffert; John Velazquez; 9-5)
10. Pneumatic (Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC; Steve Asmussen, Joe Bravo; 20-1)
11. Liveyourbeastlife (William H. Lawrence; Jorge R. Abreu; Trevor McCarthy; 30-1)