The scale and global ambitions of the Godolphin stable is best illustrated at Saturday’s blockbuster race meeting in neighbouring Riyadh where the Dubai-owned stable aim an interesting contender at the $20 million Saudi Cup, the richest horse race on the planet,

Lemon Pop, who represents Godolphin’s Japanese operation, will bid to not only win the 1,800 metre dirt contest but also prove that the horses from ‘the land of the rising sun’ are capable of performing at the highest level on dirt, a surface that is not a favourite in the country.

The son of Lemon Drop Kid, who is Japan’s reigning dirt champion, has arrived in Saudi with strong credentials having won the NAR G1 Mile Championship Nambu Hai where he became only the fourth horse to claim both Japan Racing Association’s Group 1 dirt races.

Trained by Hiroyasu Tanaka, Lemon Pop will be ridden by the highly regarded Ryusei Sakai who has been on board in all five of the six-year-old’s last starts, four of which he has aced.

The Godolphin entire is the ante-post second favourite behind American raider White Abarrio, winner of the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park, who is raced by Richard Dutrow Jr.

The 15-strong field also features two other Japanese contenders, Ushba Tesoro who won the 2023 $12million Dubai World Cup (G1) and Derma Sotogake winner of the $2 million UAE Derby (G2).

Hall of Fame handler Bob Baffert has entered National Treasure recent winning of the Pegasus World Cup.

Commenting on Godolphin’s hopes of winning a first Saudi Cup, Harry Sweeney, President of Godolphin in Japan, said on the stable’s website “We have great respect for all the horses in the Saudi Cup and this is a big ask for Lemon Pop, not just because of the local horses or those from America, which is the home of dirt racing, but also the Japanese horses. “Incredibly, Ushba Tesoro, Derma Sotogake and Lemon Pop have never raced against each other, even in Japan. So we are respectful of all and even a little afraid of many of the runners.

“This is an enormously important race for Japan,” he added. “We only have two G1 races on the JRA on dirt in the entire calendar, so we don’t have that many opportunities.

“Japan has invested very heavily in its people and horses over the years and we are now keen to try and prove our horses overseas.

“Japan has won more than 50 G1 races abroad in the last 20 years, but mostly on turf and it’s a new venture for us to be trying dirt,” said Sweeney. “While horses have run well at the Breeders’ Cup, dirt is not our forte. We are more a nation of turf horses, although now we are trying to prove that the dirt horses can do it as well.”

Charlie Appleny, who is enjoying a penonenal Dubai Racing Carnival. Saddle Canadian G1 winner Mysterious Night in the Group 2 1351 Turf Sprint on the same card.

The four-year-old is a two-time winner at Meydan this season where he easily won a turf handicap before taking out he Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort.

Appleby said: “It’s great to be participating at a big meeting like this with a horse who has a live chance. Mysterious Night has shipped into Saudi well and comes into this on the back of two nice victories at Meydan.

:He heads here with plenty of confidence and will be a big player if he gets a clear run round. Fingers crossed, he will be there or thereabouts.”

Elsewhere on the card former UAE champion trainer Bhupat Seemar sends out evergreen sprinter Tuz in the Sports Boulevard Riyadh Dirt Sprint (Group 3),

12:40Diriyah Gate Development Authority Obaiyah Arabian Classic (PA Group 1) Dist 1m2f Dirt 11 runners

The card (First race starts at 4:00pm UAE)

1.Ministry Of Culture Jockey Club Local Handicap (4yo+) Dist 1m1f dirt 20 runners

2. NHC Saudi International Handicap (4yo+) Dist 1m2½f Turf 14 runners

3. Boutique Group Saudi Derby (Group 3) (3yo) 1m Dirt 12 runners

4. Sports Boulevard Riyadh Dirt Sprint (Group 3) (3yo+) Dist 6f Dirt 11 runners

5. Saudi National Bank 1351 Turf Sprint (Group 2) (4yo+) Dist 7f Turf 14 runners

6. Howden Neom Turf Cup (Group 2) (4yo+) Dist 1m2½f Turf 13 runners

7. Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap (Group 3) (4yo+) Dist1m7f Turf 14 runners

8. Saudi Cup (Group 1) (4yo+) (Outer Track) Dist 1m1f Dirt 13 runners

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