Lemon Pop Has Work Cut Out In Champions Cup

Lemon Pop winning the February S. | Horsephotos


Godolphin's Lemon Pop (Lemon Drop Kid) has been the best dirt horse in Japan this year at distances up to a mile, but the 5-year-old faces a stamina-stretching test from a horrible draw when he faces 14 others in Sunday's G1 Champions Cup (1800m) at Chukyo Racecourse.

A $70,000 Keeneland November weanling purchase, the chestnut won the G3 Negishi S. over 1400 metres at Toyko in January and silenced those who questioned his ability to stay an extra furlong when running out a comfortable winner of the G1 February S. the following month. Sent to Dubai for the G1 Golden Shaheen over a 1200-metre journey that was too sharp, he was only 10th, but rebounded with a front-running romp in the Listed Mile Championship Nambu Hai Oct. 9. He tries a two-turn route for the first time and Ryusei Sakai will have to judge it right from the 15 hole.

“While there is a worry about the 1800 metres this time, and how balanced he might be in the run, he's been successful so far, so we can only think of him making a big challenge here,” said trainer Hiroyasu Tanaka. “It'll be interesting to see what kind of race he can run. We'll rely on the jockey to get the best out of him.”




Crown Pride (Jpn) (Reach the Crown {Jpn}) was an unlucky loser of this year 12 months ago, but has put together a very formidable record this season. Fifth to Ushba Tesoro (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) in the G1 Dubai World Cup in March at Meydan–site of his 2022 G2 UAE Derby score–the dark bay was just beaten by Meisho Hario (Jpn) (Pyro) in the valuable Listed Teio Sho June 28 and overwhelmed compatriot Gloria Mundi (Jpn) (King Kamehameha {Jpn}) by 10 lengths in the G3 Korea Cup at Seoul Sept. 10.

“There are some strong horses in the race again this year, but with the condition he's in, it should put him right up there with them,” commented trainer Koichi Shintani. “He hasn't been losing by much in his previous races, and the way he won last time in Korea certainly gives us confidence here.”

T O Keynes (Jpn) (Sinister Minister), the 2021 Champions Cup winner and fourth last year, has acquitted himself well without winning this term. Fourth in the World Cup, he was a head behind Crown Pride in the Teio Sho and third to the progressive King's Sword (Jpn) (Sinister Minister) and Notturno (Jpn) (Heart's Cry {Jpn}) in the Listed JBC Classic Nov. 3.

Three-year-old Seraphic Call (Jpn) (Henny Hughes) is the X-factor in the Champions Cup, as he is perfect from his five starts to date, all this season. After winning his first four in the lower grades, he rattled home from the latter half of the field to stamp his authority on Kyoto's G3 Miyako S. Nov. 5, pulling away to best Make a Leap (Jpn) (Sinister Minister) by three emphatic lengths.

A pair of females are in this year's line-up, including JBC Ladies' Classic heroine Icon Tailor (Jpn) (Duramente {Jpn}), and Ater Astraea (Jpn) (Reach the Crown {Jpn}), beaten 4 1/2 lengths into third in the same event.`

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