Lani (second right) ridden by jockey Yutaka Take and trained by Mikio Matsunaga wins the UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: A very rough race which saw the lead change hands six times saw Lani for Mikio Matsunaga produce another Japanese-trained winner.

Bred in the USA, this was a tough performance under the legendary Japanese jockey Yutake Take.

As they jumped out of the stalls, Polar River broke quickly to take the lead with Frank Conversation also breaking well.

However, after 100m the nature of the race had completely changed already, with Vale Dori taking them along and On The Rocks making smooth progress to take over the lead.

There was a constant recycling of positions before the 1100 metre marker where the unheralded Yu Change took it up for Japan.

The placings shuffled again by the 400m metre marker - where Yu Change scooted clear with a ‘catch me if you can’ move.

They queued up behind to challenge and Polar River got in to the race but fast became ‘the meat in the sandwich’ between Vale Dori and Lani.

Lani continued his challenge which eventually saw him wear down and overcome Yu Change.

Polar River took a long time to get going, having been blocked off, and just narrowly failed to become the second filly to win the UAE Derby.

It was a brave attempt by the filly.

Lani is by Tapit and out of mare Heavenly Romance, who won Group 1Tenno Shoin 2005 and was ridden that day by Lani’s trainer Mikio Matsunaga.

Koki Maeda, Lani’s owners’ son, said: “Everything is so special with this horse. We were always so confident of what he was capable of delivering after making this long trip. I want to sincerely thank everyone who is involved with this horse and his trip to Dubai, especially the trainer and jockey. This is a very important win for Japan. Kentucky Derby will be his next destination and he will go there and win the first prize there too.”

This was Take’s 20th ride on Dubai World Cup night and his fourth victory - but his first in this race.

Take noted: “He’s a very strong horse so I really thought I had a good chance in the race. Even though he tripped at the start he travelled really well throughout. Right now he’s still rather immature so he’s got a lot of growing up to do. He’s getting better and better and I’d like to go to Kentucky (for the Derby).”

A slightly wistful Doug Watson said of Polar River: “She was tight for room at a critical point after the turn-in. She stayed on very well again at the end. If anything she’s still a bit green. But going forward she’s going to be a superb filly as she matures. It was still a good run.”

The Magicman Joao Moreira, who gave the longshot Yu Change a great ride, said: “I went into the lead at about the 900m-marker. The pace was slow, I thought we were going to hold on but in the last 100m he tired. That 1900m is just a little too far for him. He wasn’t one of the horses that I expected to win but he nearly got it.”

Mike de Kock also commented on his filly Vale Dori who finished in the frame. He said: “She had every chance and was giving them a few pounds, which is never easy. You’d have to say she probably ran to form with Polar River.”

In what was a rough race, the Japanese horses all performed brilliantly. On this showing there must be a very strong generation of three-year-old colts in Japan this season and Lani looks to be a very exciting prospect. Trainer Miko Matsunage hopes to take this horse to the Kentucky Derby now and that will be another great test.