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Why Lani’s team changed plans and added Preakness to itinerary

By TwinSpires Staff

Edited Preakness press release

Koji Maeda’s Lani turned in a leisurely, unofficial half-mile work of approximately 50 seconds at Belmont Park Sunday morning during the 45 minutes he spent on the main track.

Keita Tanaka, who serves as Maeda’s agent, said the Tapit colt made two laps of the 1 1/2-mile track in a canter – approximately what is referred to as a gallop – and was asked to increase his speed for four furlongs on the second circuit. Tanaka described the move as “stretching out.”

“I’ve heard that it was 50 seconds for four furlongs,” Tanaka said, noting that the time was according to plan.

The extended time on the track – unusual by North American standards – is part of the daily routine for the Kentucky-bred who is based in Japan.

[According to the NYRA notes, Belmont clockers caught the lively gray colt in a two-minute lick, picking up speed down the lane to cover the final three-eighths of a mile in 40 seconds and change.]

Lani is scheduled to breeze five or six furlongs at Belmont Park Wednesday morning and ship to Baltimore early Thursday morning. He will be the first Japan-based horse to run in the Preakness and will again be ridden by 16-time Japanese champion Yutaka Take.

A strong finish in the Kentucky Derby convinced the connections of Lani, bred and owned by Maeda and his wife Yoko’s North Hill Management, to consider the colt for the 141st Preakness Stakes.

Tanaka said that the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont S. (G1) were the original targets for the colt after he won the U.A.E. Derby (G2) on March 26 in Dubai. However, when the colt rallied from last to finish ninth at Churchill Downs, the team decided to prepare him for the Preakness.

“It was good race, but it was not his day and he was unlucky,” Tanaka said. “The pace was very fast and the winner got a good position. The horses who placed ahead of Lani got better trips. He didn’t have a smooth run on the turn, but he kept coming and coming. We’re quite happy with how he ran that day.”

The Preakness was added to the schedule. Trainer Mikio Matsunaga returned to Japan to saddle a runner in the Victoria Mile (G1) on Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse and is scheduled to fly back to New York on Tuesday.

“As long as we came to the U.S., I want to participate in all legs of the Triple Crown,” Tanaka said. “The Preakness was not planned before the Derby, but he came out of the Derby OK in good condition, and so we have decided to have him run at Pimlico.”

It will be the first visit to Pimlico for the Lani team.

Following his victory in the U.A.E. Derby, Lani was flown to Chicago, where he spent time in quarantine, then shipped to Churchill Downs. Even though the Preakness became a target, Lani was sent to Belmont Park two days after the Kentucky Derby.

“I could have gone straight to Pimlico from Churchill Downs, but the trainer thought he preferred a bigger and wider track for the galloping in preparation for the next race,” Tanaka said. “This is why we choose to keep him at Belmont Park instead of going straight to Pimlico.”

Lani pictured at Churchill Downs, courtesy Coady Photography.