June 19, 2024

Lani seeks Dubai World Cup ticket in Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3

Lani scored his biggest career win in the 2016 UAE Derby on the Dubai World Cup card (Photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins)

Japan’s globetrotting dirt specialist Lani is entered in Saturday’s $400,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1), one of seven “Super Saturday” course-and-distance preps for the March 25 Dubai World Cup (G1) gala.

Lani, last year’s UAE Derby (G2) winner in his only prior appearance at Meydan, is aiming for a Dubai World Cup invitation. At the moment, he’s reportedly been invited to the Godolphin Mile (G2) on the World Cup undercard, but it’s difficult to see how he won’t ultimately get into the $10 million main event. A solid showing in Round 3 would seal the deal.

A Kentucky-bred son of Tapit, Lani gained an international following with his pursuit of the US Triple Crown trail in 2016. The Mikio Matsunaga trainee did progressively better in his stateside attempts – ninth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), fifth in the Preakness (G1), and an improved third in the Belmont S. (G1). Back in Japan for a fall campaign, Lani resumed with a third in the October 23 Brazil Cup at Tokyo, but flopped in the Miyako (G3) at Kyoto and Champions Cup (former Japan Cup Dirt) (G1) at Chukyo on December 4.

Lani has been freshened in the interim, and the four-year-old may be ready to take a step forward. The booking of ace rider Ryan Moore, and taking off blinkers, could help the idiosyncratic gray as well. He’s drawn on the outside in post 8.

Seven rivals remained when the field for the about 10-furlong test was finalized Tuesday. Chilean champion mare Furia Cruzada and Californian expat Second Summer, the respective top two from the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2), renew rivalry. Godolphin’s intriguing Move Up tries dirt for the first time, but the Saeed bin Suroor pupil could take to it as a son of Dubawi. Move Up also has class as the Cumberland Lodge (G3) winner.

Defending Round 3 champion Special Fighter, unraced since finishing fourth to California Chrome in last March’s World Cup, launches his comeback for new trainer Maria Ritchie. She was the longtime assistant to previous handler Musabbeh al Mheiri, who was recently banned for a year after a cobalt positive (the implicated horse was Vivernus, disqualified from a non-Carnival win January 14).

Likely pacesetter Mizbah, who set a track record three starts back before fading in his last pair; Korean Horse of the Year Triple Nine, most recently a one-paced fourth in a Meydan handicap; and Carnival mainstay Long River, up the track in Round 2, complete the field.

Here is the racecard screenshot from emiratesracing.com:

In other Super Saturday preps:

Topping the list for the about 1 1/2-mile Dubai City of Gold (G2) on turf is defending champion Postponed, who’s bidding to turn another double in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on World Cup night. Roger Varian’s world-class son of Dubawi, last seen finishing fifth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), is streets ahead on the ratings. Godolphin dispatches four against him, chief among them the upwardly mobile Prize Money for bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby’s Emotionless. Italian celebrity Dylan Mouth and useful handicapper Rembrandt Van Rijn are also of note.

The Jebel Hatta (G1), an about 1 1/8-mile stepping stone to the Dubai Turf (G1), features British shipper Decorated Knight. The Roger Charlton trainee was scratched from last summer’s Arlington Million (G1) after a freak misadventure, but the blueblood returned triumphant in the Winter Derby Trial. Godolphin is represented by distaffer Promising Run and the unexposed Folkswood, and Mike de Kock relies on the classy Ertijaal and Light the Lights (along with the hard-trying Sanshaawes). German Group 1 winner Elliptique may show more second time out for Satish Seemar.

Rounding out the turf preps is the Nad al Sheba Turf Sprint, which has lured such Al Quoz Sprint (G1) hopefuls as France’s The Right Man, Hong Kong’s Fabulous One, and notable Carnival performers Jungle Cat, Baccarat, and the progressive Final Venture. Old warhorses Krypton Factor, Fityaan, Sir Maximilian, and Caspian Prince are still capable of firing a big one, and Tahanee experiments on the cutback (and adds cheekpieces) for de Kock. The about six-furlong dash promises to be contentious with an oversubscribed field of 20 (a maximum of 16 to start).

Muarrab, who won the 2016 Mahab al Shimaal (G3) en route to Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) glory, will likely have a fight on his hands against Cool Cowboy (who just beat him in the Al Shindagha Sprint [G3]), ageless 11-year-old Reynaldothewizard (who completed the same Super Saturday/Shaheen double in 2013), and Hong Kong’s Dundonnell. Godolphin’s Comicas, advantaged at the weights when besting Dundonnell in a recent handicap, now faces him at levels. Morawij enters off his successful title defense in the Jebel Ali Sprint, and Japanese sophomore Dios Corrida also tries his luck in this spot.

The Burj Nahaar (G3), the dress rehearsal for the Godolphin Mile, has attracted Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) repeater Le Bernardin, who shortens up after a fourth in Round 2; last year’s UAE 1000 Guineas and Oaks (G3) romper Polar River, runner-up to Lani in the UAE Derby, and most recently a disappointing eighth in Round 1; in-form handicapper Heavy Metal, twice a winner at this track and trip during the Carnival; de Kock’s Lindo Amor, third in Round 1 and the Firebreak (G3) at this trip, and now adding blinkers; Korea’s Power Blade, third in both of his Carnival starts, including Round 2; and Godolphin’s Alabaster.

With UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) romper Thunder Snow skipping Saturday’s Al Bastakiya, the about 1 3/16-mile middle jewel of the local Triple Crown presents an opportunity for aspiring UAE Derby (G2) runners. The Marco Botti-trained Zumurudee comes in from Newmarket to tackle de Kock’s likeable prospect Fawree. Both are owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, and jockey Christophe Soumillon opts for Zumurudee, a US Triple Crown nominee. Godolphin’s promising Capezzano and Somerset House; Cosmo Charlie (adding a visor) from the Doug Watson barn; the turf-to-dirt Nobelium; and Triple Crown nominated expat Han Sense are also in the 12-horse field. Han Sense, who hadn’t fully acclimated when fifth in the Guineas, puts the blinkers back on here.

Additional Super Saturday analysis will be available later in the week on the TwinSpires.com blog.