$20 Million Saudi Cup Contender: LEMON POP

A likely field of 14 has been announced for the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) on Feb. 24 at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – the world’s richest horse race.  usracing.com will post profiles for all the starters, with post positions, odds, and updates provided when available.


From the beginning, Japan-based Lemon Pop excelled in shorter races despite a pedigree that screams distance. The Kentucky-bred son of Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid out of a mare by 10-furlong superstar Giant’s Causeway ran first or second in 12 of his first 13 starts, all at 8 furlongs or less.

Lemon Pop at King Abdulaziz RacecourseWhen trainer Hiroyasu Tanaka decided to stretch him out last December, he couldn’t have found a much tougher spot for his sprinter-miler. Not only was Lemon Pop trying 1 1/8 miles for the first time in the Group 1 Champions Cup, he drew the outside post in an outstanding field of 15. No horse outside post 12 had even finished in the first three in that race in the past decade. But the bettors believed in Lemon Pop, making him the 7-2 favorite, and they were right.

From Chukyo to Champion: Lemon Pop’s Unstoppable Journey

Lemon Pop popped out of the gate, quickly took the lead, and held it all the way at Chukyo Racecourse, cruising by 1¼ lengths after setting a leisurely pace. “He was really strong,” jockey Ryusei Sakai said. “That’s all I can say. I’m really looking forward to his other races.”

He’s only the fourth horse ever to win both of Japan’s Group 1 dirt races, the February Stakes and the Champions Cup. The rare double made the Godolphin-owned Lemon Pop the champion Japanese dirt horse of 2023 and earned him a shot in the world’s richest race. His connections are hopeful but not overconfident.

“There’s going to be plenty of competition there,” Godolphin Japan president Harry Sweeney told tdn.com. “The nine furlongs will test him because we’re not absolutely sure that’s his best distance.”

2024 Saudi Cup Contender Odds and Post Position: Lemon Pop

Betting advice: With speedy Saudi Crown and National Treasure in the race, don’t expect Lemon Pop to set an uncontested, moderate pace. Verdict: Odds will be generous, so he’s worth a stab.

Post position: 3

Odds: 15-1

Jockey: Ryusei Sakai

Trainer: Hiroyasu Tanaka

Owner: Godolphin

Age: 6

Career record: 14-10-3-0

Career earnings: $3,543,574

Last race: Champions Cup, Dec. 3, (1st)

Top Equibase speed figure: NA

Pedigree: Lemon Drop Kid-Unreachable, by Giant’s Causeway

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Frontrunner

Notes: Lemon Pop, a lightly raced 6-year-old, has made only 14 starts because minor injuries restricted him to three races until he turned 4 … His name comes from a Japanese beverage called “Lemon Squash” … Godolphin paid $70,000 for him as a weanling at a November 2018 Keeneland sale … “The trainer always believed this horse was a sprinter,” Sweeney said. “We had to kind of lean on him to even run in the (mile) February Stakes.”


2024 Saudi Cup Odds and Contenders
PP Horse Jockey Trainer Owner Odds
1 White Abarrio Irad Ortiz, Jr Rick Dutrow, Jr. C2 Racing Stable LLC and La Milagrosa Stable, LLC 3-1
2 Isolate Joel Rosario Doug Watson RRR Racing 15-1
3 Lemon Pop Ryusei Sakai Hiroyasu Tanaka Godolphin 15-1
4 Senor Buscador Junior Alvarado Todd Fincher Joe R. Peacock, Jr 10-1
5 Saudi Crown Florent Geroux Brad Cox SFMQ Stables 8-1
6 Crown Pride Joao Moreira Koichi Shintani Teruya Yoshida 20-1
7 National Treasure Flavien Prat Bob Baffert F Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Masterson, Robert E., Stonestreet Stables LLC, Schoenfarber, Jay A., Waves Edge Capital LLC and Donovan, Catherine 9-2
8 Hoist the Gold John Velazquez Dallas Stewart Dream Team One Racing Stable 30-1
9 Defunded Luis Saez Abdulaziz K Mishref Pegram, Michael E., Watson, Karl and Weitman, Paul 25-1
10 Power in Numbers Adel Alfouraidi Ahmed Mohamoud Klaravich Stables, Inc. 30-1
11 Ushba Tesoro Yuga Kawada Noboru Takagi Ryotokuji Kenji Holdings Co. Ltd. 10-1
12 Meisho Hario Suguru Hamanaka Inao Okada Yoshio Matsumoto 20-1
13 Derma Sotogake Christophe Lemaire Hidetaka Otonashi Hiroyuki Asanuma 6-1
14 Carmel Road Camillo Ospina Abdullah Albadah SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Masterson, Robert E., Stonestreet Stables LLC, Schoenfarber, Jay A., Waves Edge Capital LLC and Donovan, Catherinetd> 25-1
Posted on