LOUISVILLE — This year has been a rollercoaster for everyone, but in horse racing, 2020 couldn’t have had more ups and downs than for Art Collector connections. Just as luck would have it when they found themselves in the Kentucky Derby, the opportunity was suddenly swept away by a minor event that would normally have happened with little fanfare.
Hours before Tuesday’s post-position draw for the $3 million race for the roses, news broke that Art Collector, likely to be named second pick on the morning line behind Tiz the Law, was out of the running. During a routine workout on Monday, Art Collector nicked the bulb of his left front heel with a rear hoof and, due to strict medication rules that prevent an anti-inflammatory drug from being administered so close to race, trainer Tommy Drury, Jr. made the difficult decision to retire the colt from racing. The minor injury won’t require much treatment and the horse will likely be back to normal on Saturday, but it will cost him a start in what would have been the most prestigious race of his career.
“They just come in with their back foot and they grab the bulb of their heel,” Drury said, simply put. “As a person, you’re going to step on it a little delicately, and it’s going to be a little tender to the touch. This is exactly what Art Collector is facing right now. I made the decision this morning that I felt this thing was still sensitive. I wanted to get some anti-inflammatories in him, make him feel comfortable, and make sure he didn’t hurt him. To do that, we had to miss the Kentucky Derby. Obviously, I spoke at length with (owner Bruce Lunsford) and with my vets. We chose to do our horse right. This must come first. »
Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. was to ride Art Collector. The pair have been described as tied at the hip, with Hernandez aboard the Bernardini colt for the last six of his races and even jogging him this week at Churchill Downs. As news broke that Art Collector was out of the race, news also came that Hernandez was out of all mounts due to contracting the coronavirus.
Hernandez confirmed, via text with Derby Pool reporter Jennie Rees, that he had tested positive for COVID-19. During routine testing for runners, Hernandez and others were tested for the virus on Monday. Those who test positive must be quarantined for 10 days.
“We got the antibody results back. I am positive for the virus, but also for the antibodies, which means that I am no longer contagious,” Hernandez said in a text message.
Hernandez is awaiting instructions from Churchill Downs and the health department on when he can return to racing.
Local businessman and Thoroughbred owner Bruce Lunsford knows the volatility of racing, just as the co-founder of Vencor, once a Fortune 500 company, knows the volatility of business. He has been in the racing industry for a long time and has seen success. His filly Madcap Escapade gave him a third place in the Kentucky Oaks in 2004 and Lunsford’s Vision and Verse finished second in the Belmont Stakes in 1999. But he never reached the Derby and knows what a shaky opportunity it is. .
“I’ll probably never be in the Derby again,” Lunsford said in the two weeks leading up to the Derby. “I don’t have that kind of stable and I usually race alone, maybe with a partner. So the way I see it, it’s not a race, it’s a journey. The trip so far has been near perfect. The odds of that happening throughout the Derby are pretty slim.
Art Collector’s trip to the Kentucky Derby was as random as its exit. The four-month postponement of the race due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with other key Derby preparations, gave him the time he needed to earn his place.
“If the Derby had been on its regular schedule, it was about five-eighths of a mile in shape,” Drury said. “Number one, he had zero points (to qualify for entry into the Kentucky Derby). Number two, he just wasn’t ready to race yet.
Bred by Lunsford and out of his mare Distorted Legacy, Art Collector began his career under the training of Joe Sharp. He was transferred to the care of Drury after being stripped of the trophy due to testing positive for a drug during a stipend won last November. Art Collector took just two wins from five starts under Sharp, but won his first race with Drury on May 17 and won again. Along with winning the Blue Grass Stakes, he also won the Ellis Park Derby and racked up nearly $570,000 in prize money this year.
Art Collector’s success gave his trainer his greatest hits. Drury is a Louisville trainer based at Skylight Training Center in Goshen, Ky. He earned his training license in 1991 and amassed $8.4 million in earnings during his 2,258-start career. He picked up his first graduated stakes victory when Art Collector won the Blue Grass Stakes on July 11 and was due to make his first appearance in the Derby.
“Here’s the thing I’m most proud of,” Lunsford said of his journey with Drury. “Tommy had his chance and Tommy handled it like a pro. One thing that I think we’ve both proven is that he’s been underrated for a long time. He’ll be pretty hot commodity for a while. a few years, in my opinion, because of that. I’m really proud of him.
Like most owners and trainers, the Kentucky Derby is their holy grail, but everything has to come together to have that chance. While Art Collector isn’t the one to take Drury and Lunsford to their hometown grand ball, the practice of always putting the horse’s needs before their own might allow them to stay a little longer and make some noise. in the October 3 Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.
“This week we hit a bump in the road, and we’re going to have to regroup a bit,” Drury said. “By doing this for so long, you learn to toughen yourself up a bit. You focus on the problems as they come to you and put them behind you. You always want to look ahead and what the future might bring. The first thing I said to my assistant, José Garcia, when I got to the farm this morning was, “Have you ever been to Baltimore? That’s what we’re focusing on right now. »