Lani to work for 2016 Preakness Sunday at Belmont
May 13, 2016 10:52am
Lani works at CD (4-27-16)
Photo: Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Lani, the Koji Maeda-owned gray colt, drew headlines when he became just the second Japan-based horse to compete in the Kentucky Derby. The temperamental son of Tapit is now settling in at Belmont before running in the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course on May 21.

Lani, who is being stabled in Barclay Tagg's barn, is scheduled to have his first breeze since the Derby on Sunday at 7 a.m. Trainer Mikio Matsunaga is expected to arrive at Belmont on Tuesday, according to Keita Tanaka, an agent for the owner, and is scheduled to leave with Lani for Pimlico on Thursday to race in the Triple Crown's second leg. Lani finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby, becoming the first horse from Japan to start the Run for the Roses since Ski Captain finished 14th in 1995.

Lani, who was flown more than 5,000 miles from Japan to Dubai, won the UAE Derby on March 26 at Meydan Racecourse and then was flown more than 7,000 miles from Dubai to the United States before being quarantined at Arlington International Racecourse. Once cleared, he was moved an additional 330 miles to Louisville. The well-traveled Lani, who has three overall victories in seven starts for career earnings of $1,366,618, is now getting adjusted to Belmont Park.

"He's settled in very well," said Tanaka, who added that Lani will return to New York immediately after the Preakness in preparation for the Belmont Stakes on June 11. 

"He likes the surroundings here. It's nice and quiet. When we were at Churchill last week, there were a lot of people in the barns so he seems to like it much better here and he definitely likes the bigger track [at Belmont]."

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Midwest-based trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel hasn't started a horse in the Empire State since 2012, when he campaigned a small contingent over two seasons on the New York circuit. 

Led by 2011 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Caleb's Posse, the stable's 11 starters collected four wins and three seconds, including Caleb's Posse's ever-impressive victories in the Grade 2 Amsterdam and Grade 1 King's Bishop in 2011. 

In four weeks, Von Hemel will hope that past consistencies return present-day dividends as he targets Sam Henderson's Kentucky Derby fifth-place finisher Suddenbreakingnews to the final jewel of the coveted Triple Crown, the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 11.

"Barring anything dramatic happening in the next few days with who's running in the Preakness, we're pointing to the Belmont next," Von Hemel said by phone on Friday morning.

In the Derby, the bay Mineshaft gelding raced well off the pace, settling second-to-last and trailing the early leader by more than 27 lengths after the first half-mile. Under regular jockey Luis Quinonez, Suddenbreakingnews angled out into the stretch and nearly captured third under a ferocious drive, finishing 4 ¾ lengths behind Derby hero Nyquist.

"He's his same self," Von Hemel said of his charge since the race. "His energy level seems to be good and he seems to be feeling good."

For the time being, however, Von Hemel said he expects to remain judicious with the training and shipping of his young colt, a late-year foal who just turned three, in a literal sense, on May 2.

"We'll have a couple of works I'm sure between now and then but we don't have it scheduled right now," said Von Hemel. "We'll keep an eye on how he's training, how's he eating, the weather, all of that, before we decide. I probably won't know until a day or two beforehand. 

"We might ship in maybe about a week before and let him get accustomed to the surroundings," he added. "He's been a champ in that respect, nothing ever bothers him, so that should be plenty."

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Destin is being pointed to the Belmont Stakes following a sixth-place showing in the Kentucky Derby. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt is at Belmont following a Derby performance in which he finished seven lengths behind champion Nyquist in his first career Grade 1 start. Destin, owned by Twin Creeks Racing Stables, had posted back-to-back graded stakes victories at Tampa Bay, with a one-length win over Derby-participant and Pletcher-trained Wood Memorial-winner Outwork in the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby over 1 1/16 miles and a win in the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis, also over 1 1/16 miles.

"I thought he came out of it very well and seems to have settled in here at Belmont," Pletcher said.

Pletcher's stable will be well-represented during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival with Anchor Down expected to start in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap. The 5-year-old is coming off his first career graded stakes win in the Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester at Belmont Park.

Curalina is also settling in at Belmont in preparation for the Grade 1, $1 million Ogden Phipps. The 4-year-old chestnut filly looked strong off a six-month break, surging down the stretch for a 7 ½-length win the Grade 1 La Troienne on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.

Pletcher and ownership group Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners gave Curalina time off after a strong 2015 campaign in which she won the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont as well as the Grade 1 American Oaks at Saratoga Racecourse. A third-place showing in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff capped her year, and Pletcher said she deserved a "little vacation" before embarking on her 4-year-old year.

Red Rifle is being pointed to the Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational on Belmont Stakes Day, putting the 5-year-old chestnut gelding back on dirt after a sixth-place showing in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy on the inner turf.

Pletcher said Rally Cry is a possibility for the Easy Goer and Rachel's Valentinacould make her first start since a sixth-place showing in the Kentucky Oaks in either the Grade 1, $700,000 Acorn or the Grade 1, $300,000 Mother Goose on July 2.

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Looking to bounce back following a sixth-place finish last out in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes on April 16 at Keeneland, Waldorf Racing Stables' Neck 'n Neck will take on Sunday's inaugural running of the 100,000 Flat Out for 4-year-olds and up at 1 3/8 miles. 

A multiple graded stakes winner, the 7-year-old son of Flower Alley's last trip to the winner's circle came in September when he won the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup Stakes at Parx. Set as the 3-1 morning-line second-choice, Neck 'n Neck will leave from post position 3 with Aaron Gryder in the irons.

Coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Excelsior at Aqueduct Racetrack on April 9, Chilean-bred Turco Bravo will look to move forward for trainer Gary Contessa and Winning Move Stable. In four starts this year, he has one win and two second-place finishes. The 7-2 second-choice on the morning-line, Turco Bravo will leave depart from the rail with Javier Castellano aboard.

Making his first start back in North America coming off a ninth-place finish in the Grade 2 Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan Racetrack on February 4, Elnaawi will make his second start of the year for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Shadwell Stable. The 8-5 morning-line favorite, Elnaawi will leave from post 6 with Jose Lezcano.

Rounding out the field are Catholic Cowboy for trainer Nick Zito and Mossarossa Stable who enters off an optional-claiming win at Keeneland on April 10; Securitizfor trainer Jimmy Jerkens and Centennial Farms who last out won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on February 24, and Winter Games who for Bran Jam Stable and trainer John Toscano, Jr. who enters off a claiming win at Belmont on April 29.

Source: NYRA Communications


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