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Lemon Pop wins this year’s Champions Cup at Chukyo.
Race favorite and this year's February Stakes victor Lemon Pop led the field wire-to-wire in the Champions Cup to become the fourth horse in history to win both G1 dirt events in the same year—Gold Dream won both races in 2017, Transcend in 2011 and Wing Arrow in 2000. The son of Lemon Drop Kid kicked off this season with consecutive wins in the Negishi Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,400m) and the February Stakes (G1, dirt, 1,600m) and, though defeated to 10th in his first overseas endeavor, the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1, dirt, 1,200m), won his comeback start back home in the Mile Championship Nambu Hai (dirt, 1,600m) on October 9 with an overwhelming 2.0-second margin before coming into this race. Trainer Hiroyasu Tanaka and jockey Ryusei Sakai marked their second and fourth JRA-G1 victories, respectively, following their win with this horse in the February Stakes.
Lemon Pop, quick out of the gate from the widest stall, accelerated strongly to assume command. The five-year-old chestnut maintained his lead and continued to run persistently after entering the lane, holding off the strong challenges from behind to clear the wire with a 1-1/4-length margin.
"He was quick out of the gate and wanted to go, so I chose to race him in the front. Though it was his first 1,800-meter race and the outermost stall was not to his advantage, I think he handled it well with his remarkable ability. He was really strong. That's all I can say. I'm really looking forward to his future races," commented Ryusei Sakai.
Twelfth pick Wilson Tesoro traveled second from the rear on the rails after a poor break and angled out to enter the lane. While unable to find a clear path at the early stretch, the Kitasan Black colt switched further out around 350 meters out and launched the fastest late drive to overtake all his rivals but the winner to finish second.
Ninth favorite Dura Erede tracked 1-1/2 lengths behind the leader in second, closed the gap at the final corner but failed to catch the winner and while overtaken by the fast-closing runner-up just before the wire, secured third place by a neck after dueling with T O Keynes.
4th: (4) T O Keynes—sat around 4th on rails, dueled with Dura Erede behind winner, weakened in
5th: (2) Meisho Hario—saved ground around 10th, improved position but needed more
6th: (11) Hagino Alegrias—settled in 9th, angled out, showed brief effort but lacked needed kick
7th: (1) Make a Leap—hugged rails in 7th, drifted to outside 300m out, never threatened
8th: (10) Notturno—sat in 12th, drifted to outside at final corner, unable to reach contention
9th: (8) Ater Astraea—positioned around 13th, turned wide, passed tired rivals
10th: (12) Seraphic Call—trailed in rear, made headway with 800m to go, circled wide, even paced
11th: (9) Crown Pride—ran wide around 5th, checked 300m out, lost momentum
12th: (13) Keiai Shelby—chased leaders in 3rd, checked 300m out, faded
13th: (6) Gloria Mundi—raced wide in 7th, switched to outside at early stretch then to inside,
14th: (14) Icon Tailor—traveled wide around 10th, driven after 3rd corner, unable to respond
15th: (3) Geoglyph—settled around 5th, outrun after final corner