Lunsford will ‘treat every day’ like a Derby winner

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The 145th Kentucky Derby was won by Country House. Could Art Collector win the 146th running of the US Classic?

Owner Bruce Lansford says he’ll be soaking up every bit of the build-up to next month’s Kentucky Derby as his charge Art Collector bids to win the ‘Run for the Roses’.

Kentucky native Lunsford has never had a runner in the Derby before and he says the important thing is to enjoy the countdown with the recent Ellis Park Derby winner.

He scooped that success on Sunday last and, with four weeks to the Derby at Churchill Downs, his owner is going to enjoy every second.

“I’m going to enjoy the ride for the next four weeks,” Lunsford said. “I’m going to treat every day as if I have the winner. Because the last race only lasts two minutes, but I’ve got four or five weeks in front of me that can be super.”

Art Collector already has given him one great moment, winning the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, the racetrack where a young Lansford fell in love with horses.

Given that Lansford, trainer Thomas Drury and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. are all locally-based, he’s anticipating Art Collector will be popular amongst neutrals and Kentucky natives.

“There are no bad stories here with our threesome,” Lunsford said, referring to himself, trainer Drury and jockey Hernandez. “We get along great. We started out with an idea. We pretty well stuck to the pattern, and we’re going to stick to it for one more race and I like the fact that we’re local boys.”

For trainer Drury too it will be a maiden runner in the Kentucky Derby and he labels it a “dream come true” to have that privilege.

Hernandez, meanwhile, is a veteran of two Kentucky Derby rides already; having finished 12th on Tom’s Ready in 2016 and eighth on McCraken a year later.

The rider fully acknowledges that Belmont and Travers Stakes scorer Tiz The Law casts a long shadow over the ‘Run for the Roses’ after his demolition job at Saratoga last weekend.

Barclay Tagg’s imposing performer deserves the favourites tag but Hernandez knows it cannot be labelled a one-horse race and warned he’ll go into the September 5th contest with ‘an open mind’.

“Tiz the Law will be the favourite, but everybody who’s going to be there to the Kentucky Derby, they’ve all earned their chance,” said Hernandez, who has been riding in Kentucky since 2004. “You have to go there with an open mind and just go in there and read your race.”