Lemon Pop sees consistency rewarded with G3 Negishi Stakes victory
Prolific course winner Lemon Pop turned the tables on Gilded Mirror to post a breakthrough G3 success in the seven-furlong Negishi Stakes at Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday, 29 January.
The duo had met over a mile in the G3 Musashino Stakes at the same track in November, when Gilded Mirror caught Lemon Pop in the final stride to score by a nose.
Chasing a seventh Tokyo win, Lemon Pop broke on terms and tracked the leaders in fifth under Keita Tosaki as Aurora Tesoro made the early running.
Lemon Pop travelled ominously into the race entering the final quarter-mile and the Hiroyasu Tanaka-trained five-year-old readily went clear after hitting the front a furlong and a half from home.
Gilded Mirror launched another late bid but could not threaten Lemon Pop, who stayed on powerfully for a half-length verdict.
Harry Sweeney, President of Godolphin in Japan, said: “There can hardly be many horses who deserved a Group race victory more!. He has been an amazingly consistent horse and his record now is an enviable seven wins and three seconds from 10 starts, in addition to racetrack earnings of more than US$1,600,000. However, it has been a longer road that we were initially expecting. After he won his debut in good style two years ago and then followed up second time out in scintillating fashion in a Road-to-the-Kentucky-Derby race, it was abundantly clear to all that this horse was really special and some of us were already planning our wardrobes for the UAE Derby and the Run for the Roses. However, some small niggly soundness issues resulted in him losing a full year and meant that he had to progress through a series of conditions races to ensure he had enough earnings to be guaranteed a spot in Group races. And with today’s win, he finally has earned the right to start in a JRA G1.
“This in itself raises some new issues as there are only two JRA G1 races on dirt in the entire calendar and neither at a distance ideal for Lemon Pop. The G1 February Stakes, which is in three weeks’ time, is over a mile, a distance that seems to be at Lemon Pop’s limit. He did win impressively over a mile as a two-year-old but just got caught on the line in a G3 last November, his only other attempt at this distance. Lemon Pop’s trainer would prefer to keep Lemon Pop sprinting but there are no JRA top tier races on dirt at this distance. He has been entered in the G1 Golden Shaheen in Dubai, so that might be an option if he was invited. However, I think it more likely that he will take his chance over a mile in Tokyo in February.”