Lanier wins the Hanshin Cup at Arlington International

Lanier wins the Hanshin Cup at Arlington International (Coady Photo/Arlington)

With the sharp decrease in the number of synthetic racetracks in the U.S. over the last decade, there are few high-class options remaining for horses who excel on artificial surfaces.

But you can bet Lanier will make the most of those limited opportunities. Just look at how he shredded nine rivals in the $100,000 Hanshin Cup Stakes (G3) on May 11 at Arlington Park, turning a seemingly competitive race into a one-sided procession.

Lanier has shown talent on dirt and turf, but synthetic tracks seem to be his strong suit. He’s cracked the exacta in six of his seven starts over artificial surfaces, including runner-up efforts in the 2019 Kentucky Cup Classic, 2018 Prairie Bayou Stakes and 2018 Forego Stakes, all at Turfway Park.

But in the Hanshin Cup, Lanier brought his game to a new level. Reserved in third by jockey Declan Cannon through fractions of :23.99 and :47.56, Lanier took the lead at the quarter pole of the one-mile event, then widened his advantage in the final furlong to prevail by four lengths. By the time he hit the finish line, Lanier was in complete control and still running strong, clocking the final quarter in :24.67 to record a final time of 1:35.84.

Behind Lanier another synthetic specialist, What’s Up Dude, rallied to edge Kentucky Cup Classic winner Nun the Less for second, while graded stakes winner Sir Anthony rounded out the top four. Despite their credentials none were able to remotely challenge Lanier in the homestretch.

Having decisively turned the tables on Nun the Less to record his first graded stakes victory, Lanier—a former claimer—has proven to be a shrewd acquisition by trainer Brett Santangelo and is staking his claim as the preeminent synthetic specialist in the United States. The question is, where does Lanier head from here? Stakes options are few and far between if his connections wish to keep him on artificial surfaces. A trip to Woodbine for the 1 1/4-mile $125,000 Dominion Day Stakes (G3) on June 30 could be a possibility, or Lanier could wait a week and tackle the $100,000 Leematt Stakes at Presque Isle Downs going a flat mile, the same distance as the Hansin Cup.

There will be more options later in the year, such as the $125,000 Seagram Cup Stakes (G3) Aug. 11 at Woodbine going 1 1/16 miles or the $200,000 Presque Isle Mile Sept. 9. Lanier may have to travel far and wide to remain in his comfort zone, but if his Hanshin Cup performance is any indication, the results could well be worth the effort.