Tom Drury Jr suggests that having Art Collector as a leading contender for Breeders’ Cup glory next month is where a trainer “spends their life trying to get to”.
Art Collector won the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in July and will return to the track next month for a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, where he will run that distance for the first time in his career.
He comes into the race off the back of finishing fourth in the Preakness at Pimlico earlier this month, when Swiss Skydiver held off Authentic to take the final Triple Crown prize of the year.
At this point, the Dirt Mile is the solid aiming point, with Drury suggesting perhaps only a poor post position would see him swerve the race. Art Collector’s alternative engagement would be to run in the Grade 1 Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs on November 27th.
“If everything goes right this week, that’ll be the plan,” he said. “I don’t know what the field size is going to look like. I guess the only thing that could affect you in a race like that is if you drew the outside. If you got a bad post then you may rethink it.”
The field for the Dirt Mile looks set to include the likes of Grade 1 Met Mile winner Vekoma and Jesus’ Team, who finished third in the Preakness – a spot clear of Art Collector.
Brian Hernandez, Art Collector’s regular rider, will again have the mount in the Dirt Mile on November 7th and the pair worked a four-furlong stretch at the Skylight Training Center in preparation last week.
Drury, a native of Kentucky, is aware of what it means for his career to have a Breeders’ Cup runner in his home state.
“It means everything,” he said. “It’s kind of like being able to compete in a Triple Crown race this year. You spend your life trying to get your hands on a horse like this and to get this opportunity.
“There’s really not any big traveling to worry about. We know our horse runs well over Keeneland’s surface and likes that track. We know the facility well and we know what to expect. If you’re going to do something like this, this is certainly the way to do it.”
Even allowing for the proximity of Keeneland to his home and the fact that Art Collector will be racing in familiar surroundings, the trainer is realistic in regards to how tough it will be to go and win a race the Breeders’ Cup meeting.
“I don’t think it’s quite as deep as the Classic is going to be this year,” Drury said of the Dirt Mile. “But they’re not going to give you a Breeders’ Cup [win]. You have to go earn it and there’s going to be nice horses in there.”