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Lemon Pop underlines superiority with G1 Champions Cup victory


Lemon Pop confirmed his status as the best dirt horse in Japan with a decisive all-the-way success in the G1 Champions Cup at Chukyo on Sunday, 3 December.

The five-year-old had already annexed the only other top-level dirt contest on the JRA, the February Stakes at Tokyo, in addition to taking the local G1 Mile Championship Nambu Hai on the NAR circuit by a distance in October.

Encountering nine furlongs for the first time, Lemon Pop tacked across from the widest draw of stall 15 and soon established a length and a half advantage.

Dura Erede took slightly closer order in second after the first three furlongs, but Lemon Pop appeared to have the majority of his rivals under pressure turning into the straight.

Lemon Pop opened up daylight approaching the final furlong, with Ryusei Sakai able to ease the Hiroyasu Tanaka-trained entire close home for a length and a quarter verdict over Wilson Tesoro.

Harry Sweeney, President of Godolphin in Japan, said: “Christmas has come early for us in Japan! And indeed if Santa Claus doesn’t turn up in three weeks’ time, we won’t be too upset.

“Lemon Pop was awesome today – there can be no denying that. No horse drawn in the outside three stalls has even made the frame in the last decade, so Lemon Pop needed to overcome the obstacle of the widest draw of all. Also, doing it from the front is probably not the easiest way to win a G1 but he had little alternative because of the draw and it was another excellent ride for Ryusei Sakai. In truth, he looked all over the winner when turning in – he was still travelling very well while everyone else was hard at work.

“Lemon Pop looked really well in the paddock before the race and had been training well with a perfect preparation. Kudos to the trainer and his team for an excellent job. Lemon Pop spent the summer in our Castle Park training centre in Hokkaido and our team did a brilliant job there to return him in peak condition for his autumn/winter campaign.

“Though five years old, he is relatively lightly raced and over four seasons has only run a total of 14 times. As he is in great form, we are hoping to keep him in training for another year and will be considering the G1 Saudi Cup before hopefully going back to Dubai in March.”