Kentucky Derby Pedigree Profile: Lemon Pop

November 30th, 2020

It’s safe to say Lemon Pop is a Kentucky Derby (G1) contender whose roots span the globe. The talented chestnut races in Japan while carrying the silks of international powerhouse Godolphin, but from a pedigree perspective, he’s a Kentucky blueblood through and through.

Lemon Pop Pedigree
Lemon Drop Kid
Charming Lassie
Lemon Pop
Giant's Causeway

Bred by Mr. and Mrs. Oliver S. Tait, Lemon Pop sold for just $70,000 as a weanling, which looks like a bargain in retrospect. A comfortable triumph in the 1,600-meter Cattleya Sho on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby cemented Lemon Pop as a candidate for the 2021 “Run for the Roses,” and while it’s too soon to say if he can hold his own against the best in North American, the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby shouldn’t be any issue.

Lemon Pop is a son of Lemon Drop Kid, the champion older male of 2000 and a runner sufficiently long-winded to prevail in the 1999 Belmont Stakes (G1). Although the five-time Grade 1 winner did his best running on dirt, Lemon Drop Kid’s pedigree contains a mixture of dirt and turf influences, giving him the versatility to sire runners who excel over all surfaces.

Indeed, Lemon Drop Kid has sired multiple Grade 1 winners on dirt, turf, and synthetic tracks, including Arlington Million (G1) winner Beach Patrol, two-time Pacific Classic (G1) hero Richard’s Kid, and Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Lemons Forever. The unifying trait has been their tendency to mature late and excel running a mile or farther—early-developing sprinters have been practically nonexistent among Lemon Drop Kid’s most successful foals.

The bottom half of Lemon Pop’s pedigree contains a nearly identical dose of versatility and stamina. His dam, Unreachable, is a daughter of European star Giant’s Causeway, a six-time Group 1 winner on turf who managed to finish second by a neck in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on dirt. Coincidentally, Giant’s Causeway finished several places ahead of none other than Lemon Drop Kid.

At stud, Giant’s Causeway was a sensation, siring elite runners with seemingly equal frequency on dirt, turf, and synthetic. 2019 Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar, champion 2-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi, and British classic winners Footstepsinthesand and Ghanaati rate as just a few examples. With an average winning distance of 8.1 furlongs, Giant’s Causeway has been a definite source of stamina in American pedigrees.

The one concern for Lemon Pop is the fact Lemon Drop Kid and Giant’s Causeway aren’t particularly known for siring American classic types. Their long-winded progeny tend to lack the tactical speed and/or early maturity to challenge for victory in the spring classics, so although classic distances should be well within reach for Lemon Pop, it’s possible the Triple Crown will be run and done before the stoutly-bred youngster finds his best stride.