Lunsford looks to 'enjoy the ride' ahead of first Kentucky Derby

Lunsford looks to 'enjoy the ride' ahead of first Kentucky Derby
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Bruce Lunsford has done a lot of things during his 72 years. He ran against Mitch McConnell in a 2008 U.S. Senate race. He’s been the head of multimillion-dollar companies and co-produced several films.

And now, after years of owning race horses, he has a Kentucky Derby contender with Art Collector.

After the colt won the Ellis Park Derby on Sunday, Lunsford, sweating in his red plaid suit jacket on a day listed at 97% relative humidity, held court near the paddock and reflected on his time as a horse owner, saying he plans to enjoy every moment leading up to the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby.

“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.”

Lunsford is a Kenton County, Ky., native who built a business career in Louisville. Art Collector already has given him one great moment, winning the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, which he said was particularly special as he decided he wanted to own horses while attending races at Keeneland as a student at the University of Kentucky.

The race at Ellis Park also served as a sort of homecoming for Lunsford, as some of his first horses raced at the Henderson, Ky., track. And when he gets to Churchill Downs, he will have something of a hometown favorite with Art Collector, which he bred in Kentucky.

“There are no bad stories here with our threesome,” Lunsford said, referring to himself, trainer Thomas Drury and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. “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. All you guys from Louisville, I hope you’re rooting for us.”

Drury, who hails from Louisville, was thrilled with the performance from the son of Bernardini at the Pea Patch, saying it was exactly what they wanted.

“I think we got what we were looking for,” Drury said. “We’ve got good timing between now and the big race.”

The rarity of having a true contender in the Run for the Roses was not lost on Drury, who will be making his first appearance in the race.

“It’s been a dream come true,” Drury said. “My daughter was here today and able to share it with me. A lot of years of hard work and long days and tough beats.Today, that’s why you keep coming back, that’s why you do it, to get an opportunity like this.”

Hernandez, who was aboard the colt for his wire-to-wire victory, praised Art Collector’s trip, saying he was also excited for what will be his third Kentucky Derby ride, having finished 12th on Tom’s Ready in 2016 and 8th on McCraken in 2017.

“Tiz the Law will be the favorite, 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.”

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