Godolphin’s Lemon Pop intrigues in Cattleya Stakes on Japan Road to Kentucky Derby

Nov 26, 2020 Kellie Reilly/Brisnet.com

The Japan Road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby begins in Saturday’s Cattleya Stakes at Tokyo, and Godolphin has a good-looking prospect in Lemon Pop. A smart winner of a newcomers’ race here Nov. 7, the Kentucky-bred bids to follow up against 10 rivals including recent Tokyo romper Takeru Pegasus.

Lemon Pop is by Lemon Drop Kid, the 1999 Belmont (G1) and Travers (G1) hero who became champion older male in 2000. His dam, the Giant’s Causeway mare Unreachable, is herself out of Harpia, a Grade 3-winning full sister to internationally renowned Danehill.

Heavily favored at odds of 7-10 in his debut, Lemon Pop turned in a most encouraging performance for young trainer Hiroyasu Tanaka. The chestnut tracked the pace, took over while still on the bridle, and easily pulled three lengths clear of next-out winner Satono Mustang. That came over a 6 1/2-furlong trip likely to be short enough for him, and the step up to a metric mile in the Cattleya figures to suit Lemon Pop well. Keita Tosaki has the return call.

Top jockey Christophe Lemaire stays aboard Takeru Pegasus, who crushed a maiden at this track and trip also on the Nov. 7 card. The son of Dunkirk, the 2009 Florida Derby (G1) and Belmont runner-up, was moving forward from a second in his Oct. 10 debut, where he was just run down late in the slop. Takeru Pegasus left no doubt next time as the 1-2 favorite, making a bold move to the lead on the turn and opening up by nine lengths.

Gratt Eldingu, from the first crop of 2016 Belmont upsetter Creator (by Tapit), was unplaced in his first two starts on turf but reveled on the switch to dirt last out. Gliding to the early lead in an about 1 1/8-mile maiden at Nakayama Sept. 12, the dark gray was ridden out to a five-length decision. He faces better competition while turning back in trip on Saturday.

Famous Dandy is likewise by a freshman sire, Grade 3-winning sprinter Danon Legend (by Macho Uno). After a closing third in his unveiling in a Nakayama sprint, Famous Dandy launched a sustained rally from well off the pace to prevail at this course and distance Oct. 18. He’ll probably have to improve to catch the principals in the Cattleya.

No Double Dip also comes off a track-and-trip score, when forwardly placed throughout in a Nov. 1 maiden. He was previously second in a newcomers’ race on the Nakayama turf, won by Titleholder who went on to place in the Nov. 23 Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai (G3).

The filly Miko Black, by 2008 Louisiana Derby (G2) and 2009 Forego (G1) star Pyro, was most recently runner-up in the listed Edelweiss S. at Mombetsu. The Kokura maiden winner was fourth in a Chukyo allowance in her prior start.

Four runners were beaten in Tokyo allowances last out. Shin Yomoginesu got up for third in the Oct. 17 Platanus Sho, edging fourth-placer Keep It Simple by a neck. Keep It Simple, a daughter of Eskendereya, was racing for the first time since breaking her maiden at Niigata Aug. 29, while Shin Yomoginesu had not been seen since his win at Sapporo Aug. 8. Plus Ultra and Self Made were fifth and ninth, respectively, in the Nov. 14 Oxalis Sho. Of those two, Plus Ultra arguably has more upside since that was his first try on dirt, and he rallied from 11th.

The most experienced entrant, Plaisir Minoru, has six starts under his belt. Although by transatlantic turf star Cape Blanco, he didn’t show much in three grass tries and only improved when changing surfaces. Plaisir Minoru won narrowly in his second attempt on the Chukyo dirt but didn’t get close to the winner when third in a Kyoto allowance in his latest.

The Cattleya offers points on the 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers. The next scoring race on the Japan Road, the Dec. 16 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun at Kawasaki, is worth twice as many points (20-8-4-2). The final two Japan Road events are the Hyacinth (30-12-6-3) back at Tokyo in February followed by the Fukuryu (40-16-8-4) at Nakayama.

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