Oct 11, 2022 – by Sid Fernando, Thoroughbred Daily News

I called the elite bloodstock agent Donato Lanni last Wednesday only to tell him I’d call him again Sunday and to expect my call. I didn’t want to jinx him, with Cave Rock (Arrogate), War Like Goddess (English Channel), and Moira (Ghostzapper) entered in three Grade l races Saturday at Santa Anita, Belmont-at-Aqueduct, and Woodbine, respectively.

The weekend was almost perfect for Lanni, except for the hex that jockey Rafael Hernandez put on Moira in the Gl E.P. Taylor S., choosing the wrong path for her at a crucial stage in the race. Turning for home, Moira was behind five runners fanned ahead of her, and Hernandez, looking for a seam, chose to go inside where there was no room. Lanni was still steaming on Sunday when we spoke. He’d purchased Moira for $150,000 at Keeneland September two years ago for a group of Canadian horsemen and friends who race as X-Men Racing. Lanni clients Madaket Racing and SF Racing, who are a part of the “Avengers” group that race colts with Bob Baffert, are co-owners. “She was like a greyhound as a yearling, a long-distance type for turf and all-weather, not a horse for dirt. She’s a classy filly, but not a typical Ghostzapper physically. Ghostzapper looked like a miler, he could sprint and go a mile and a quarter. She’s not that way.”

War Like Goddess, trained by Bill Mott for owner George Krikorian, is a 5-year-old mare. She defeated males in the Gl Joe Hirsch Turf Classic S. and goes next in the Gl Breeders’ Cup Turf. A winner of nine of 12 starts and $1,612,184, the daughter of English Channel was bred by Calumet, sold for $1,200 as a weanling at Keeneland November, was unsold as a $1,000 RNA at Keeneland September, and made $30,000 at OBS June when Lanni bought her.“You just don’t see too many English Channels showing up at an OBS 2-year-old sale,” Lanni said. “That’s not what they’re supposed to do. They are long on the grass. Anyway, she shows up and works and goes in like :10 2/5 and does really well. She’s got a great stride and great action, but she comes back and she’s got some pretty good shins on her. They were pretty big. I call them summer shins–shins that last all summer. And so I said to myself, there’s only one guy I know who’d take this filly, meaning you need to be patient with her and give her time, and that was George Krikorian. I hadn’t bought him a horse in a long time, so I called him.”

“George was the first guy who ever let me buy him a horse where I actually got paid a commission for buying the horse,” Lanni said. “That was Starrer in 1999 at Fasig-Tipton. We’d gotten to be friends, he said he trusted me, likes me, and said if I see anything I like, buy it.  When I found Starrer, I called him and said I found him a filly, and he said to just buy it and hung up. I’m in my mid-20s, and I’m like, ‘What does that mean, just buy it?’ I’m nervous. I don’t have a signed agent agreement, I don’t have any money, and what do I do If this guy walks away from me?” Lanni paid $35,000 for the yearling Starrer, a daughter of Dynaformer who became a multiple Grade l winner for Krikorian and trainer John Shirreffs, earning $1,043,033 through four seasons. “He’s been my longtime friend and a client since. He’s the greatest,” Lanni said.

Undefeated Cave Rock appears to be the leading 2-year-old colt heading to the Breeders’ Cup.  “Baffert is not just an amazing horse trainer and person, he’s also amazing at finding young horses at auction,” Lanni said. “He’s been great at that forever, and he’s taught me a lot. I can’t ever take credit for what I do with Bob, because Bob is instrumental, but we work together closely and it’s a team effort. I don’t buy a horse for Bob if he doesn’t agree.”  They agreed on Cave Rock.  Lanni said, “If he was a first-crop Arrogate, he would have made seven figures. He was amazing, he was beautiful. He had beautiful bone, he was correct, he had a great hind leg. But last year, no one wanted an Arrogate.”  Because the Avengers are usually looking for colts by proven sires to turn into stallions, Cave Rock didn’t fit the profile, but he was a natural for the Three Amigos. “Bob and Mike have been together from the beginning, and when we shop the sales, those guys are always ready to buy,” Lanni said. “They don’t care about sires, they don’t care about pedigrees, they want physicals and they want runners.”

“I shop the entire catalog, from the first day to the last,” Lanni said. “I don’t want to miss a single horse, and you never know where you’ll find that good one.” He seems to have a knack for finding them wherever they are, in all price ranges.

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