Two siblings will meet for the first time on the big stage in Saturday’s Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates.
Among 10 runners from Japan at the meeting are the two half-brothers Awardee and Lani, both out of the Sunday Silence mare Heavenly Romance and trained by Mikio Matsunaga for owner-breeder Koji Maeda.
Seven-year-old Awardee (Jungle Pocket), joint-highest rated in the field behind Arrogate (USA), had raced on turf since his debut 2012 but switched to dirt in September 2015 and it completely changed his career trajectory.
Awardee won six consecutive races over the surface and finished second in the Champions Cup in December before rounding off the season with a second place in the Tokyo Daishoten at Ohi on December 29.
His younger brother Lani (Tapit) has quite the personality, which sometimes goes along with being called a ‘handful’ or ‘difficult’. After winning the UAE Derby sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group 12 months ago, Lani headed straight to America for the Triple Crown and is the only Japanese horse to ever run in all the three legs of it.
“Unfortunately he did not win any of the three races,” trainer Matsunaga said.“He showed well in his races, and myself and the owners’ connections were very happy with Lani’s performances in the Triple Crown. I had lots of confidence going into the UAE Derby as he was in good condition and I recognized how capable he was, so it was quite a big win but not a big surprise to me.”
After he came back to Japan and had a break during the summer, Lani had three starts in the autumn but did not run well. Despite his disappointing performances, Matsunaga still thought his physical condition showed progress and he gave him the green light to come back to Dubai for the Maktoum Challenge Round 3. At that time he was not fully fit as he ran for the first time in three months.
“Of course I know how difficult it is to beat horses like Arrogate and the other competitors in the field, so I gave the instructions to the staff to give intensive training to Lani since Super Saturday,” said Matsunaga.
“Awardee is an experienced horse but he still needs to find his best performance in the Dubai World Cup. I understand he should be 100% fit or probably more to compete against such the strong fields. Actually for me, Awardee is not as tough as Lani to train, and I have been very lucky to get a chance to have two horses in the field.”
Asked which horse had the best chance, Matsunaga laughed and said, “if asked about consistency, I would answer Awardee, but if asked which horse has more potential, I would answer Lani. The two have totally different racing styles. So I want Awardee to give some pressure to the other horses in front, while Lani stays behind and we will see what happens.”
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