Add another Kentucky Derby runner to the list of challengers for Nyquist in the Preakness Stakes. Ninth place finisher Lani has remained in the United States rather than returning to his home base in Japan. He’s shipped to Belmont Park where he will train for the Preakness Stakes and–if all goes according to plan–the Belmont Stakes.
Despite the mediocre finish in the Kentucky Derby–which trainer Mikio Matsunaga admits through an interpreter that he wasn’t ’100 percent satisfied with’–his connections were generally pleased with his effort in his first US start. Lani broke poorly and was in 17th at the first turn before recovering to finish ninth. Matsunaga again: “There are lots of things he can improve on since then. As far as a first-time run in the U.S., it was acceptable.”
Lani is a Kentucky bred horse and the son of Tapit. He earned his way into the Kentucky Derby by winning the Grade 2 UAE Derby at Meydan Race Course in Dubai. After the Derby most observers assumed that he would return to Japan and target a lower competitive class than he faced at Churchill Downs. For that reason it was something of a surprise that he was planning to stay in the US and more of one that he ended up at Belmont. Matsunaga has a sound rationale for training at the New York track–he says that the wider track is good for a ‘wide strider’ like Lani. Plus, the horse seems happy with the overall environment of the track: “Lani is a big strider. I want to give him some training on a bigger track. He likes the environment here, so as long as possible I want to stay here.”
Matsunaga also said that it’s ‘highly likely’ that Yutaka Take will retain the mount though ‘officially’ no decision has been made. Take was aboard Lani in six of his seven career starts including the win in the Grade 2 UAE Derby that punched his ticket to Louisville in the first place. It’ll be interesting to see which of the two remaining Triple Crown races offers a pace more conducive to Lani.