HENDERSON, Ky. (Wednesday, July 15, 2020) — If Keeneland’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Art Collector races again before the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, it will be in the $200,000 Ellis Park Derby on Aug. 9 at Ellis Park.
Trainer Tom Drury said that Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector could run in the 1 1/8-mile Ellis Park Derby as a tightener if a streak hot weather would make him ease up in the colt’s training. Art Collector secured a spot in the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby after picking up 100,000 qualifying points for winning last Saturday’s Grade 2, $600,000 Blue Grass by 3 1/2 lengths over the filly Swiss Skydiver. Ellis Park regular Brian Hernandez Jr. is Art Collector’s jockey.
“No. 1, I’m just sure thankful that race is there,” Drury said of the Ellis Park Derby. “Ellis, I know they had to work hard to have their meet this year. To keep a race like that really helps us, keeps us from having to travel if we decide to go there. If I knew it was going to be 65 degrees every morning and I could train him exactly the way I wanted, I would probably say we’re just going to train up to the Derby.
“But the first part of August, it could be crazy kind of weather. If that’s the case, do you really want to be cranking on on your horse (on a daily basis)? So I’m glad to know that race is there. I’ve met with Bruce and we’ve discussed it and decided we’ll let the horse take us along; we’re not going to take him. If we feel he needs another race, that is the only spot that’s even in consideration. If we feel we don’t need another race, we’ll just train up to the big dance.” The Ellis Park Derby marks a historic occurrence in track history, with Ellis Park only in position to have a Kentucky Derby prep because of the coronavirus-forced delay of the Churchill Downs classic. The Ellis Park Derby winner will receive 50 qualifying points — which should guarantee a spot in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby — but that’s not a consideration for Drury.
“We’re in a good spot now,” Drury said. “Before the Blue Grass, it was a little nerve-wracking. Because that was an all-or-nothing deal. Now that we got over that hurdle, it’s almost like you can exhale a little bit. Now your whole thought process is on your horse. It’s not on getting points to get there, or any of the other things going on around you. It’s just focusing on the horse and doing what’s right for him. You’re not even thinking about the (Ellis Park Derby) purse.
“In all honesty, you don’t even have to win that race. If you need that race as a tightener, it’s there for you. If you don’t, you don’t. The good news is that everything seems to be in order at this point. He came out of the Blue Grass in good order and he’s a happy horse. And usually that’s a big part of being successful, having a horse that’s on his game and happy and enjoying what he’s doing.”
Another prominent horse under consideration for the Ellis Park Derby is Godolphin’s Brad Cox-trained Shared Sense, who picked up 20 points toward Kentucky Derby qualifying in winning Indiana Grand’s Grade 3, $300,000 Indiana Derby under Florent Geroux last week.
“The Ellis Park Derby is on the discussion table,” Darley America president Jimmy Bell, whose team also oversees Godolphin’s American racing operation, said in an email response to an inquiry.
“We obviously have some other options that we are considering as well. A little more time and we’ll have a better idea as to which direction we’re headed.”
Photos below: Brian Hernandez Jr. guided Art Collector to a dominating victory in Keeneland’s $600,000, Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes last Saturday. Coady Photography