The Case Against UAE Derby winner Lani
Answer: Horses I’d never bet to win the Kentucky Derby.
Assuming Dazzling Gem doesn’t make the gate, there won’t be any unraced two-year-olds in this year’s Kentucky Derby, but there is a U.A.E. Derby winner and a horse who has not raced beyond 1 1/16 miles.
Destin falls into the latter category, and we’ll get to him closer to Derby. Lani is our focus for this screed, and before we get to why we don’t like him let’s rule out reasons some don’t like him as reasons why we don’t like him:
1. He’s too slow
a. That may be the case, but that has nothing to do with why I don’t like him because he could be fast and that would still be the case.
2. His workouts have been slow/unconventional/lacking interest
a. Again, this might be true, but that’s all some other people’s thoughts, anyway. The reason I don’t like Lani is definitely *my* thoughts alone.
b. And even if we all accept that his training is unconventional or slow, he’s from Japn, and it’s OK that they do things differently over there. We give our horses medicine on race day. How do you think that plays over there? They probably think we’re unconventional, too, shooting up > 95% of our racehorses.
3. He’s by Tapit
a. I definitely don’t love this, but he could be by a proven Kentucky Derby sire (whatever that means), and I still wouldn’t like him.
Because a horse who raced in the United Arab Emirates six weeks ago isn’t winning the Kentucky Derby.
When recent Dubai World Cup winner California Chrome returns to the races there will be much ballyhoo about the “Dubai jinx” that alleges horses “don’t come back the same after racing in Dubai.”
This is a circumstantial case where the evidence is often gerrymandered to fit the argument. Horses can and do return to the U.S. from racing in Dubai and run well. But that return is usually months, not weeks later and never in races as prestigious as the Kentucky Derby.
If the trip back from Dubai takes enough out of our best horses to give them at least a couple months between races then how can we expect a three-year-old to do it in six weeks against our best horses? It’s a big enough ask that until it happens I’ll keep betting against it happening.
That’s not to say that the international participation isn’t great for American racing, however. Churchill Downs Senior Director of Communications Darren Rogers said he has received 50 credential applications from 15 Japanese outlets versus 3 such applications from a single outlet most years.