Lemon Pop carrying Godolphin's hopes in Dubai Golden Shaheen

In 11 career starts, the five-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid has won eight races

By Joy Chakravarty

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Lemon Pop recorded Godolphin’s first G1 of 2023 with an authoritative win over Red Le Zele in the February Stakes. — Godolphin
Lemon Pop recorded Godolphin’s first G1 of 2023 with an authoritative win over Red Le Zele in the February Stakes. — Godolphin

Published: Fri 24 Mar 2023, 7:19 PM

Dubai Golden Shaheen promises to be the most closely-contested race of Dubai World Cup evening, with very little separating Godolphin’s Lemon Pop, the Bhupat Seemar-trained defending champion Switzerland and American Gunite.

In 11 career starts, the five-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid has won eight races and when he is not collecting gold, he saunters away with the silver. Trained by Hiroyasu Tanaka, he will start as favourite, even though it is his first race outside Japan and will be the first time he drops down to six furlongs.


Lemon Pop recorded Godolphin’s first G1 of 2023 with an authoritative win over Red Le Zele in the February Stakes. As he comes to Dubai, he faces the remarkable challenge of no Godolphin horse ever winning the Dubai Golden Shaheen before.

Harry Sweeney, President of Godolphin in Japan, said: “Lemon Pop’s trainer has always wanted to go sprinting with the horse and we had to lean significantly on him to run over a mile in the February Stakes. The trainer believes that a mile is Lemon Pop’s absolute limit – he has won over six and a half furlongs but mostly over seven.


“We need to be realistic. In the last 25 years, Japan has won 53 G1 races outside of Japan and only two of those have been on dirt. Racing on dirt is not our forte in Japan, neither is sprinting, so we have enormous respect for the American sprinters and local horses. This will be a big ask for Lemon Pop.”

Switzerland will be one of the oldest horses in the race at nine, but trainer Satish Seemar has tried to keep him fresh by not giving him too many races this year.

“He’s getting old and he’s doing everything right. There was no point putting too much mileage on his legs. He’s had a nice break. He’s fresh, and he runs well when fresh. There’s only one prep run and he won that impressively. If all goes well, we’re hoping for a good run,” said Seemar.

Whenever Gunite has run six or seven furlongs, he has either won (six times), or finished second (thrice). In Riyadh last month, he could not match the power of Frankie Dettori-ridden Elite Power over the closing stretch, but looks to have settled a lot better for Dubai.

Gunite is the best hope among four Americans in the race (CZ Rocket, Sibelius, and Hopkins).

Sibelius could be an interesting outsider, with back-to-back wins in the US before travelling from Miami to Dubai. The Jerry O’Dwyer-trained five-year-old is stepping up to a Gr1 race for the first time in its life, but has master tactician Ryan Moore on its back.

O’Dwyer said: “We have been drawn low in the majority of his races so we are OK with the number one post. Obviously, we will have to ride him out of there but we think he can work out a good trip.”

Dubai Golden Shaheen

Turf: 1,200 metres

Purse $2,000,000

KT PICKS

Lemon Pop

Godolphin has never won the race in 26 editions, so they now have a Japanese-trained horse to earn a breakthrough win. Has been in stunning form in Japan.

Dark Horse

Sibelius

Winner of his last two races in the United States, the in-form Sibelius seems to have settled down well and will benefit from the presence of Ryan Moore on top.

Quotes

Harry Sweeney/Lemon Pop

“Racing on dirt is not our forte in Japan, neither is sprinting, so we have enormous respect for the American sprinters and local horses. This will be a big ask.”

Bhupat Seemar/Switzerland

“He’s getting old and he’s doing everything right. There was no point putting too much mileage on his legs. He’s had a nice break. He is fresh.”


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