By Pimlico Press Staff — Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector remains on track for the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes (G1) after missing the Kentucky Derby (G1) with a minor foot issue.
Art Collector worked a half-mile in 48.10 seconds on Saturday at trainer Tommy Drury’s Skylight Training Center base under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. Drury said the son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini likely will ship into Churchill Downs within the next few days and work over that track this weekend.
“He seems good,” Drury said. “He breezed over the weekend, just kind of a maintenance half-mile. Brian felt he was as good as he’s ever been. As long as everything is going right, we’re going to shoot for Baltimore. But as always, we’re going to let him take us along. We’re going to get him settled in here (Churchill Downs) and make sure everything is OK, and at some point over the weekend I’d guess he’ll go five-eighths. I’d say if everything goes well there, we’re on target for the Preakness.”
Art Collector, who would have been the co-second choice behind Tiz the Law, was not entered in the Kentucky Derby after nicking a piece of flesh off his left front heel in training.
“He just grabbed the back of his quarter,” Drury said. “The thing was sensitive and sore to the touch. There was a little flap there that needed to be trimmed away. We knew when we trimmed it away, it was going to be even more sensitive, and the right thing to do was sit that one out and put it behind us.”
Drury said Art Collector missed three days of training.
“We were able to get him right back to the track,” he said. “I jogged him the first day and he was back to galloping. It wasn’t that he had some major issue, it was just bad timing. There wasn’t much we could do for it Derby Week with the medication rules. To run, it would have just been for ego. If you don’t win the Kentucky Derby, then it doesn’t matter. Nobody wants to talk to the guy who finishes fifth.
“At least for me, I don’t want to just lead one over there just to be leading them over there. I want to take my best shot. Had he been a $10,000 claimer could we have patched him up? Sure we could have. But is that the right thing to do for the horse? Absolutely not. Now we’re going to go into the Preakness and we’re going to take our best shot. I’m not thinking about a race. I’m thinking about a career. Bruce has already said he’s more than willing to run this horse next year. So why would we do something stupid at this stage of the game?”
The lifelong Louisvillian might have missed out on what would have been his first Kentucky Derby starter, but he said trainers make such decisions all the time outside the spotlight.
“Have I thought, ‘What if?’ Sure I have,” Drury said. “That being said, I slept better that night than I did the entire two weeks leading up to the race. I was very comfortable with the decision I made, and I’m very comfortable where the horse is. We want him to be good for the long haul and not just one race.”
Now the trainer is looking forward to his possible Triple Crown debut in the Preakness.
“The timing of it is good,” he said. “The thing I like is that he doesn’t have to take his racetrack with him. I would expect him to do that in Baltimore as well. I’m just looking forward to giving him the opportunity to run against those horses. He may or may not have run well in the Derby had he been there. We’re certainly not going to take anything away from the winner. He ran a huge race. But we’re looking forward for our opportunity to go after him.”
Drury said he’s really glad now that Art Collector ran back in the Aug. 9 Ellis Park Derby at 1 1/8 miles instead of training up to the Derby off of the July 8 Blue Grass.
“Absolutely,” he said. “This didn’t really interfere with our schedule a whole lot. We missed a couple of days and we were right back at the track. He’s been training very forwardly. He worked good Saturday, so it seems like at this point, it’s all systems go.”
Kentucky Derby third Mr. Big News “definitely pointing” to Preakness
Trainer Bret Calhoun termed Allied Racing’s Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Mr. Big News “probable” for the Preakness Stakes but that a final decision likely will be made after the colt works later this week.
“Right now he came out of the Derby well; we’re definitely pointing that direction,” Calhoun said at Churchill.
Mr. Big News rallied from 10th to finish third in the Kentucky Derby, 3 1/4 total lengths behind victorious Authentic and two lengths behind heavy favorite Tiz the Law. The Giant’s Causeway colt earned a free spot in the Preakness Stakes by virtue of winning Oaklawn Park’s $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes at 46-1 odds, almost identical to his Derby odds. In between those races, Mr. Big News was sixth in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes won by Preakness candidate Art Collector.
Calhoun said the Preakness decision will be almost solely made on “just how he’s doing,” not on the other horses showing up.
“I want him to be coming into the Derby just like he came into the Derby,” he said. “If he’s going that good, we’ll run. Who else is running really doesn’t have a big bearing. We’re getting to the end of the 3-year-old races, so my options are either run him there, go to the turf or back off. I really don’t want to run him against older horses at this point in time. So if he’s doing really, really well, like he was coming into the Derby, we’ll definitely run in the Preakness.”
Of the Derby, Calhoun said, “At the three-eighths pole I got pretty excited. I thought he might win the whole thing. I knew they were going pretty fast in front him, and I thought they might back up to him. He was moving pretty good to them. But the 1-2 finishers are very, very good horses and when they straightened up, they went on and we didn’t close the gap very much from there.”
Pneumatic following similar spacing he had before Pegasus
Two years after they finished a very close third in the Preakness with Tenfold, owner Ron Winchell and trainer Steve Asmussen will be back in the 1 3/16-mile classic with Pneumatic. Tenfold closed out of a fog that obscured the view of much of the 2018 Preakness, coming up three-quarters of a length shy of Kentucky Derby winner Justify, who went on to take the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown.
Pneumatic worked five-eighths of a mile Sunday over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track in 1:01 2/5. The Uncle Mo colt will remain there with assistant trainer Scott Blasi until shipping to Pimlico.
“He’s training really well,” Asmussen said. “Obviously we were encouraged with his Pegasus. We thought it was his strongest race to date. It appears the Derby participants have come out in good order, and the Preakness ought to be a great race.”
Pneumatic won his first two starts at Oaklawn Park, then was third in Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Stakes (G2) won by the highly regarded Maxfield. After a fourth in the revamped Belmont Stakes, eight weeks later he captured Monmouth Park’s Aug. 15 Pegasus. Now he’ll have seven weeks before the Preakness.
“We made a conscious decision, because of how well he ran in the Pegasus from the timing after the Belmont to the Pegasus, to try to follow a similar plan that he responded to,” Asmussen said, “(having) nothing but respect for how good of a race it’s going to be.”