Lemon Pop crowned Best Dirt Horse at 2023 JRA Awards
Lemon Pop claimed the title of Best Dirt Horse as the winners of the 2023 Japan Racing Association Awards were revealed on Tuesday, 9 January.
During a stellar campaign, the US-bred entire became only the fourth horse to win both G1 dirt races on the JRA in the same season with authoritative displays in the February Stakes and Champions Cup.
Lemon Pop’s visually most impressive display of 2023 came in the local G1 Mile Championship Nambu Hai on the NAR circuit, in which his winning margin was officially recorded as “a distance”.
Harry Sweeney, President of Godolphin in Japan, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that Lemon Pop has been crowned Champion Dirt Horse. He has been an exceptionally consistent horse in Japan over a number of seasons and indeed has won 10 of his 13 career starts here and been second in the other three. While racing fans are very aware that Lemon Pop aced all the JRA Group 1 dirt races in 2023, being able to call him Champion is a more apt and succinct description.
“Lemon Pop has been a breakout horse for his young trainer Hiroyasu Tanaka and his jockey, Ryusei Sakai, deserves special credit after stepping into the breach for his last three races.
“A pleasing aspect of Lemon Pop’s achievements is that it has truly been a team effort. Lemon Pop arrived in Japan as a weanling and was part-reared in our breeding farm. He was subsequently broken and pre-trained in our operations in Castle Park and Midway with assistance from our veterinary and farrier teams. Indeed, it is only our stallion and nominations teams that have not been involved yet, but their time is coming.
“Lemon Pop was purchased as a foal for just US$70,000 and his career earnings are already close to US$4,000,000. It is somewhat Cinderella-esque. Interestingly, Lemon Pop was bred by Olly Tait, who in a previous incarnation was a director of the Godolphin Japan operations, which adds a very pleasing symmetry to the story.
“Lemon Pop remains in training in 2024 and the Saudi Cup in February is an early year target followed by a possible trip to Dubai.”