Japan-based Lani headed to Kentucky Derby

AP Photo
0 Comments

Lani is about to embark on a 7,380-mile journey back to his old Kentucky home for a chance to Run for the Roses.

The gray colt earned the trip to the Kentucky Derby with a come-from-way-behind victory in the UAE Derby on Saturday in Dubai. The win was worth 100 Derby qualifying points, and Lani will be on his way to America in the next few days.

“Of course, we will go to the Kentucky Derby,” said Koki Maeda, the son of Lani’s owner, Yoko Maeda, “and I’d like to get the first prize.”

Lani moves into the AP’s latest Run to the Roses Top 10 Derby contenders at No. 9. The biggest jump was made by Gun Runner, who won the Louisiana Derby by 4 1/2 lengths and is up to No. 6.

Unbeatens Nyquist and Mohaymen remain 1-2 heading into their showdown in the Florida Derby on Saturday.

Lani was bred in Kentucky out of the Sunday Silence mare Heavenly Romance but is based in Japan. A son of Tapit, Lani won two of five starts in Japan before his victory in Dubai.

Ski Captain is the only Japan-based horse to run in the Derby, finishing 14th in 1995. As fate would have it, the jockey who rode Ski Captain – Yutaka Take – is also the rider for Lani.

Take nearly fell off when Lani stumbled at the start and dropped well back in the field. But the colt regained his balance, raced on the outside and began making up ground. In the stretch, Lani pulled ahead of the leaders with about 100 yards to go and won the nearly 1 1/4-mile race by a half-length.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has himself a strong Derby contender in Gun Runner, who now has wins in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds and sits atop the points standings with 151.

“The good thing is he’s very easy to manage,” said Gun Runner’s jockey, Florence Geroux. “He has so many gears.”

To have a Derby horse, “it’s great,” he added. “I was in the Derby last year (with Stanford), but my horse was scratched. Hopefully we can make a nice run the first Saturday in May.”

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

kentucky derby
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1 Comment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.

Bob Baffert wins record 16th Del Mar Futurity with Cave Rock

Getty Images
1 Comment

DEL MAR, Calif. — Cave Rock won the $302,000 Del Mar Futurity by 5 1/4 lengths, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record 16th victory in the Grade 1 race in which he finished 1-2.

Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Cave Rock ran seven furlongs in a stakes-record time of 1:20.99 on closing day at the seaside track north of San Diego. He lowered the old mark of 1:21.29 set by Declan’s Moon in 2004.

Baffert tied Phil D’Amato for the trainers’ title with 19 wins each at the 31-day summer meet. It was Baffert’s eighth title at Del Mar, but his first since 2003.

Hernandez won the jockeys’ title.

Havnameltdown, also trained by Baffert, finished second in the race for 2-year-olds. Skinner was another 4 1/4 lengths back in third.

Longtime Baffert clients Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman own the first and second-place finishers.

Cave Rock paid $2.80 to win as the 2/5 favorite. He earned $180,000 for the win.