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Agent behind Dortmund groomed Garland Lobell

April 30, 2015

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Tthere's a Standardbred horse angle behind Dortmund, one of the favorites for Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
Donato Lanni, the thoroughbred bloodstock adviser who picked out Dortmund last May at a sale in Maryland for two-year-olds in training, used to work as a Standardbred groom at Blue Bonnets racetrack in Montreal. Lanni was a teenager at the time, living in the Montreal suburb of Beaconsfield. His father Giuseppe, a construction contractor, owned Standardbreds for two decades and competed in amateur-driving races in the province.

"Duncan MacTavish (a longtime Montreal trainer) lived on the same street as we did in Beaconsfield. If I was out there waiting at the stop sign when he headed out at 5:30-6 (a.m.), he'd pick me up and we'd drive to the track. If I wasn't, he'd drive on,” said Lanni, now 46.

Lanni owned his first racehorse at 16 and worked for several Standardbred trainers in Montreal, including Onil Patry and André Lachance, "my mentor, who taught me how to keep a horse, what keeps them sound.”

"My claim to fame was being (hall-of-fame stallion) Garland Lobell's groom in the summertime when he was 2,” said Lanni, who left Montreal for Kentucky after graduating from Concordia University with a commerce degree in 1996, intent on making a living in the thoroughbred world, "a much bigger game internationally.”

But his first break in Kentucky came at a Standardbred operation, Castleton Farm, which took him on as a yearling foreman after he'd been turned down repeatedly by thoroughbred outfits. Eventually, Lanni talked his way into jobs at thoroughbred operations Walmac International and Hill 'n' Dale Farm, and now is regarded as one of the sharpest thoroughbred appraisers in the business, adviser to the likes of high-profile trainer Bob Baffert.

Lanni estimates he looks at about 15,000 horses a year. Among his past finds were Bayern, winner of the 2014 Breeders' Cup Classic, and 2010 Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky.

Dortmund is the second choice in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, slated for Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.

(A Standardbred Canada/Trot InsiderExclusive by Paul Delean)

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