LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Bloodlines, storylines, they're all great. Sometimes, they aren't enough. Trainer Tom Drury, who has spent nearly 30 years training at Skylight Stables in Goshen, Ky., without a hint of limelight, appeared to be headed to the Kentucky Derby with the likely second choice in Art Collector.
The colt's owner, Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford, also was anticipating his first shot in the Derby after a lifetime around the races. He had moved Art Collector to Drury in the spring, after the colt had tested positive for a banned substance under a previous trainer. He figured he'd move Art Collector on to someone else after a short time, but he wound up staying with Drury, in part because of COVID-19.
And the colt, who Drury said was "a half-mile fit" when he arrived at Skylight, thrived, winning four straight races, including the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and the Ellis Park Derby, setting up a potential storybook run in the Kentucky Derby.
The run ended on Tuesday of Derby week, just hours before the post-position draw, when Art Collector did not go to the Churchill Downs track. Marty McGee of The Daily Racing Form reported via Twitter that Art Collector has been scratched from the race.
Here's how fragile these hopes are. Drury said that the colt "nicked the bulb of his left front heel with a hind hoof" during a routine gallop on Monday.
“He grabbed himself yesterday morning training,” Drury told Jennie Rees of the HBPA. “It was still very sensitive this morning. When I took my thumbs to palpate the bulbs of his heels, you could still tell it was pinching him. I had to make a choice. Your horse has to always come first. To run in a race of this caliber and trying to compete against the best 3-year-olds in this country, you’ve got to be 110 percent. To me, it wouldn’t have been fair to Art Collector, even though it’s slight, knowing that there’s an issue of any kind. I had a meeting yesterday afternoon with my veterinarians, Foster Northrup, Rick Costelle, had my blacksmith there. We discussed some different scenarios. We maybe could have put a bar shoe on it and stabilized it and he would have been fine. But you’re going to the Kentucky Derby. First and foremost, as the trainer, it’s my responsibility to be the voice for the horse. That’s just not fair to him (to run). He’s been too good to us, and we’re going to make sure he’s taken care of first.”
Ten days before the Derby, Drury said he was waking up at 3 in the morning and watching old reruns on television to try to get himself a little more rest.
Derby dreams will do that to you. But they also fall hard. For the second straight year, a major contender is sidelined just before the race. In 2019, it was favorite Omaha Beach, who had to scratch on Tuesday of Derby week, ending a bid for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandells's first Kentucky Derby win.
For Drury and Lunsford, it's a bitter experience. But it also has raised Drury's profile, and should send more quality horses his way in the future.
“I knew after we gave him a little anti-inflammatory this morning that he’d be perfectly sound,” Drury said. “That’s not surprising at all. And that’s what we wanted to see. We wanted to see him respond well to it, and it looks like that’s what happened. On to Baltimore (and the Preakness Stakes).”
Art Collector's injury means Tiz the Law, already a heavy favorite, should be the first even-money Kentucky Derby favorite since Arazi in 1992. The Kentucky Derby post position draw will take place Tuesday at 11 a.m.
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