Lemon Pop far too sharp for Mile Championship Nambu Hai rivals


Lemon Pop put his Dubai Golden Shaheen disappointment firmly behind him with a commanding all-the-way success in the local G1 Mile Championship Nambu Hai at Morioka on Monday, 9 October.

Making his NAR debut, the G1 February Stakes winner showed good early speed from the gates and was sent on into a three-quarter length lead by Ryusei Sakai.

Lemon Pop travelled strongly in front and looked to have the rest of the field in trouble as he started to lengthen away approaching the final quarter-mile.

The Hiroyasu Tanaka-trained five-year-old streaked further clear in the straight under minimum urging and was eased in the closing strides, with his winning margin officially recorded as “a distance”.

Harry Sweeney, President of Godolphin in Japan, said: “It’s impossible to be anything other than thrilled with a performance like that. Lemon Pop was outstanding today. We hadn’t really expected him to make the running and there was a very audible murmur from the crowd as he took the lead, somewhat in disbelief. The jockey rode a brilliant race and pulled away easily to win very, very comfortably at the finish.

“It’s not easy to win a Jpn G1 race by a distance, so credit to the horse and the trainer. A special thanks must go to our own team in Castle Park, where Lemon Pop has been for about five months since he came back from Dubai.

“The next options have not been decided and Lemon Pop effectively has three choices, one of which is the Jpn G1 JBC Sprint over six furlongs at the beginning of November. He is also qualified to run in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita, which the jockey was angling towards after the race. The third option is the G1 Champions Cup at the beginning of December, which is over nine furlongs.

“Lemon Pop’s trainer was never really in favour of running him over a mile, even though he has now won two top competitions over the distance, and he certainly showed today that he has no problem with the trip. Certainly, we will be looking at the Champions Cup, with one run beforehand. We will be discussing it intently over the next few days.”