Lemon Drop Kid, older male Eclipse Award winner.

Lemon Drop Kid, older male Eclipse Award winner.

Adam Coglianese

Eclipse Awards: Older Male: Lemon Drop Kid

Lemon Drop Kid's pedigree

It's difficult to imagine a colt that wins the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and Travers Stakes (gr. I) as a 3-year-old has much room to improve, but Lemon Drop Kid stepped up his performances to another level in 2000. How did he do it? Jeanne Vance, the owner of Lemon Drop Kid, and her husband, Laddie Dance, believe two factors came into play: the addition of blinkers and a change of riding tactics.

Trainer Scotty Schulhofer experimented with blinkers when Lemon Drop Kid was a 2-year-old, but he never put them on the Kingmambo colt for his races, only du ring training. He settled instead for a large shadow roll. "We breezed him in blinkers several times," Vance recalled. "He had a habit of looking at things and jumping at puddles. We tried the blinkers then, but it didn't help."

Following a third-place finish in the Pimlico Special (gr. I) early in his 4-year-old season, Edgar Prado, who was riding Lemon Drop Kid for the first time, said the colt lost momentum around the final turn when he slowed down to look at the starting gate in the chute at the top of the stretch. When Lemon Drop Kid came back a month later in the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II), the blinkers were on, and Lemon Drop Kid was all business--drawing off to win by 7 1/4 lengths, the biggest winning margin of his career. The Brooklyn began a four-race tear that continued with victories in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II), Whitney Handicap (gr. I), and Woodward Stakes (gr. I).

The change in riding tactics came when Vance and Dance chose to replace Jose Santos with Prado. "Jose is an excellent rider, but he has a style of riding where he likes to come from behind, and we thought Lemon Drop Kid might benefit from a more aggressive style," Vance said. "So we made the decision to go with Edgar."

Dance thought Prado's tactics made a big difference in the Whitney, when Lemon Drop Kid moved to the lead early against Behrens, his chief rival in the race, who was ridden by Jerry Bailey. "Bailey thought we'd wait, but Edgar went ahead and made his move first," Dance said. "It was a wonderful race to win."

Wonderful might be the perfect word to describe the time Vance and Dance have had in racing, especially the three years they campaigned Lemon Drop Kid. Horses have always been in their blood--Vance showed Saddlebreds as a young girl, and Dance spent 40 years working with the Fasig-Tipton auction company--but Lemon Drop Kid got that blood flowing a little faster.

Lemon Drop Kid was bred by William S. Farish and the late William S. Kilroy, who sold the colt through Farish's Lane's End consignment at the 1997 Keeneland September sale for $200,000. Lemon Drop Kid was syndicated for $30 million and returns to his birthplace, where he enters stud in 2001 for a fee of $100,000 live foal.

"These kind come once in a lifetime," Dance said. Vance agreed, saying, "I'll never see another like Lemon Drop Kid, but you keep hoping you'll get a nice horse, and we'll keep looking."