It was a thrilling weekend at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. Not only was the world watching California Chrome make a triumphant and resounding entry in to the winner’s circle at the world’s richest race, a new Kentucky Derby hopeful named Lani emerged from Mikio Mistunaga’s camp. The results of the Dubai World Cup and the UAE Derby reverberated through the industry over the weekend.
Nothing was more important than seeing California Chrome firmly establishing his place as the older horse to beat this season. Coming off a pair of tune-up victories at the San Pasqual Stakes and a Meydan handicap, this was a pivotal moment for the winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Skip to 0:51 in the video below to witness a race you don’t want to miss.
California Chrome took a defiant line from the 11th post, running three wide for the whole race and gunning down the stretch to pass Mshawish, who had lead the pack down the backend of the backstretch and through the second turn. Mubtaahj made a valiant play on the inside rail, but simply could not keep pace with the eventual winner. Hoppertunity also came from way outside to thunder past Special Fighter, Frosted and a fading Mshawish to claim third as those three finished 4th thru 6th respectively. Keen Ice finished seventh behind Candy Boy.
As Art Sherman’s team celebrates the well deserved victory, California Chrome will recover through the week before going home for a month of rest. No plans have been set for now, but you can safely assume that Sherman and the five-year old champion’s connections are eager to make their next move.
Not to be outdone on the weekend’s events was Lani, who staged a massive comeback to win the UAE Derby and earn a whopping 100 points on the Kentucky Derby trail. The relatively unknown son of Tapit had been up and down during Japanese based challenges, but heeded the call on Saturday with a shot at greatness on the line.
At one point in the race, Lani had slipped all the way to last place before turning it on during the second turn to claim second. The favorite in the UAE Derby was three-year old filly Polar River, who had won four races at Meydan coming in to this derby prep race. Yu Change would lead for much of the last bend and down the stretch and looked to have a real shot before Lani and Polar River slipped up on the outside as he faded with just over 200 metres to go. Lani pressed hard to edge Polar River and punch his ticket to the Fastest Two Minutes In Sports.
It was a thrilling and relieving win for Yoko Maeda and trainer Mikio Matsunaga who had hoped that their investment in the Kentucky-born horse was going to pay off. For those of you tracking some of the outside shots heading in to the mega-event in just over a month, Lani has come from nowhere to slot in as a reasonable consideration. There’s no doubting his pedigree, but a lacking consistency will cause concern for any backers trying to lock in on a fringe pick. Keep him in mind and track Lani’s breezing work. We will likely not get another chance to see Lani compete until the derby itself. A back burner horse to be sure, Lani’s day in the sun may simply have to be his run at the UAE Derby.