Koji Maeda’s Lani, winner of the UAE Derby in his most recent start, put in another unconventional move in preparation for his expected start in the Kentucky Derby May 7 when he was credited with a three-furlong move in :37.40 over a track labeled fast at Churchill Downs on Wednesday.
With jockey Yutaka Take aboard, Lani jogged right onto the track, galloping easily once around before beginning his work. The quirky son of Tapit was supposed to be clocked for five-furlong move but didn’t get going until the three-eighths pole under repeated, strong urging from Take. Clockers timed Lani in :14 for his first eighth and had a gallop-out time of :50.60 for a half-mile.
Lani pulled up at the three-quarters pole, backtracked to the mile chute where he walked for a few minutes before returning to the barn.
“He was a little shy to start, but after the quarter pole we got a good gallop for two furlongs,” Take said via interpreter Keita Tanaka, the agent for the owner. “It was supposed to be five furlongs, but he wanted to stop. Back home in Japan he has done that before, so it is not a concern.”
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Last Wednesday, Lani had another leisurely move when he was credited with working five furlongs in 1:06. His connections said that pedestrian work was by design.
Take has ridden the Tapit colt in five of his six starts.
“His temperament is that he is not willing to run always,” Take said. “If he does (want to run), he has a big chance (in the Derby).”
And when would Take know his charge wants to run?
“After the gate,” Take said with a laugh.
Wednesday marked the first time Take had been at Churchill Downs since riding two horses in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup. Prior to that, he had ridden in the 1995 Kentucky Derby, finishing 14th on Ski Captain.
“That was schooling for me. It was a good experience,” Take said. “For all riders, it is extremely difficult to ride in the Derby and I know how precious it is. It is one of my biggest ambitions (to win the Derby) and to have a horse here is exciting.”
Take left Japan on Tuesday to come in for the work and is scheduled to return to Japan on Thursday. He will be back in Louisville next Friday.