Catching Up With Lemon Drop Kid

Legends
Lemon Drop Kid, the 1999 Belmont Stakes winner, at Lane's End Farm. (Photos courtesy of Melissa Bauer-Herzog) 

A well-bred son of classic winner Kingmambo from the family of 1992 Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy, Lemon Drop Kid was purchased for $200,000 as a yearling. While some believe he was named after the short story by Damon Runyon, according to the Baltimore Sun he was named after a show horse that owner Jinny Vance had known in her youth. The racehorse Lemon Drop Kid lived up to the lofty name bestowed on him, becoming both a top racehorse and sire.

As a 2-year-old, Lemon Drop Kid won his second start by a neck and two starts later earned his first Grade 1 in the Futurity Stakes in late September. He nearly added a second Grade 1 to that tally only a few weeks later when he finished second in the Champagne Stakes before ending his season in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he finished fifth.

LEMON DROP KID

The colt didn’t spend much time on the Kentucky Derby prep trail at 3, winning an allowance in late February before finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.  After a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, his connections stepped back from the Triple Crown to regroup in an easier race. He headed to the Peter Pan and finished third to Answer Lively but it seemed to prepare him perfectly for the Belmont Stakes.

In that race, Lemon Drop Kid was at the rear of the main pack of horses nearly from the start, settling in eighth. He started making a major move with a quarter mile to go, and after circling the field he took the lead in the stretch. Lemon Drop Kid pulled away by about a length in the final furlong but Vision and Verse came back at him to cut the margin to a head at the wire.

1999 BELMONT STAKES

Video courtesy of The New York Racing Association

After his five-race campaign between late February and early June, Lemon Drop Kid got a two month break and returned to the races in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes as a prep for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes. While he didn’t run badly, Ecton Park stepped up in a big way that day to beat the second-place Lemon Drop Kid by 5 ¼ lengths in his first graded stakes win.

But Ecton Park wouldn’t get a chance to upset Lemon Drop Kid again in the Travers. Lemon Drop Kid was a length or less off the leading Cat Thief for most of the race and in the last furlong had the advantage to win his third career Grade 1 by three-quarters of a length with Ecton Park running in fourth at every call.

Things didn’t go as smoothly for Lemon Drop Kid as he stepped up to face older foes in his last two races of the year with two off-the-board starts.

Lemon Drop Kid came back ready to run the next year, making his start in the Grade 3 Widener Handicap at Gulfstream Park. But while the big bay crossed the finish line in front by two lengths, he was disqualified to fourth for ducking in and impeding the other runners.

While it was a unique note to start his season, the next start was even more so when Lemon Drop Kid was involved in a dead heat with End of the Road in an allowance. The win tallied his first victory of the year but it was only the beginning.

Lemon Drop Kid couldn’t get to the front in the Pimlico Special, finishing third by two lengths but it was the last time the horse would lose until October.

LEMON DROP KID

Staying in New York for the summer, Lemon Drop Kid easily won the Grade 2 Brooklyn after sitting close to the lead again. The 7 ¼-length score in the race was the largest winning margin of his career. After winning a second Grade 2 the following month, Lemon Drop Kid returned to Grade 1 company in the Whitney.

Taking on five other horses that included the previous year’s runner-up Behrens and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Cat Thief, Lemon Drop Kid was near the back of the pack for the first half-mile. But by the last furlong he was a length and a half in front and didn’t stop, winning by two lengths.

The winning didn’t end there with Lemon Drop Kid when he lined up for the Woodward Stakes in search of another Grade 1 victory. The race was one for the ages with most of the horses vying for the lead for most of the race. In the far turn, only Lemon Drop Kid, Skimming and Behrens were left in front before Skimming finally relented at the top of the stretch and let the two others fight it out for the win. With Gander behind them and trying to make up ground he had lost when dropping out of the fight before the turn, Lemon Drop Kid and Behrens were head-to-head down the stretch. Lemon Drop Kid popped his head in front with a little over a furlong to go but Behrens wasn’t willing to give up easily, pushing Lemon Drop Kid to the wire with the margin of victory being a head in favor of Lemon Drop Kid.

2000 WOODWARD STAKES

Video courtesy of Horse Racing

That was the last win for Lemon Drop Kid, who finished fifth in both the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic before retiring to Lane’s End Farm with a record of 10 wins and six other on-the-board finishes in 24 starts, earning more than $3.2-million and a champion older horse title.

According to the Baltimore Sun, 20 or so Lane’s End employees greeted Lemon Drop Kid when he arrived at the farm on the morning of Nov. 5, 2000 to join 23 other stallions on the farm’s roster. Living in a stall across from his sire Kingmambo and next to Summer Squall, another horse found in Lemon Drop Kid’s deep female family, Lemon Drop Kid began his career with a stud fee of $100,000.

Lemon Drop Kid had 58 live foals in his first crop born in 2002 with 10 of those winning stakes races and a farther four hitting the board. That group was led by multiple graded stakes winner Cosmonaut and Grade 3 winner Lemon Maid.

From 12 crops of foals 3-years or older, Lemon Drop Kid has sired 40 graded stakes winners and 83 stakes winners with 68 other horses hitting the board.

Of those, his most accomplished runner is multiple Grade 1 winner Richard’s Kid, who won six graded stakes in his career with 12 wins in 47 starts overall. Other Grade 1 winners for Lemon Drop Kid include 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, Cannock Chase, Christmas Kid, Santa Teresita, Somali Lemonade and Citronnade.

Lemon Drop Kid’s biggest influence on the breed may be that as a broodmare sire, however. The stallion’s daughters have produced 257 winners from 380 starters for a 68 percent strike rate. The best of those winners may be the multiple Group 1-winning highweighted filly Elusive Kate with Canada’s dual champion Miss Mischief and Grade 1 winner Lochte also representing their broodmare sire well. Lemon Drop Kid’s Lemons Forever may be his most valuable broodmare prospect, however. The Kentucky Oaks winner has seemed to nick well with Unbridled’s Song, with both her daughters by the stallion winning Grade 1 races, including last Friday’s Apple Blossom winner Forever Unbridled.

LEMON DROP KID AT LANE'S END

As for making his mark on the next generation of racing classics, his daughter Christmas Kid may give her sire a late Christmas present this year. Her son Black Sea recently won the Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial and trainer Aidan O’Brien told Racing Post the colt is possibly heading to France’s Prix du Jockey Club later this year.

As for his 2-year-olds, Lemon Drop Kid has 102 of them registered with The Jockey Club. None of them have yet made a start but a half-brother to graded stakes winners Diversy Harbor, Keertana and Snow Top Mountain sold for $550,000 in March with five of the seven others to sell as 2-year-olds so far this year, as of April 17, bringing $100,000 or more.

The 20-year-old Lemon Drop Kid is still active in the breeding shed, breeding 137 mares in 2015 and standing for a fee of $40,000 at Lane’s End Farm this year.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!