Courtesy of NYRA Press Office
Leading Horse of the Year candidate Lemon Drop Kid, winner of last year's Grade I Belmont and Travers Stakes and this year's Whitney and Woodward, had a light gallop this morning. He is, of course, the featured attraction in Saturday's Grade I, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at a mile and a quarter on the main track. Owned by Jeanne Vance and trained by Hall of Famer Flint "Scotty" Schulhofer, Lemon Drop Kid exits out of a head victory over Behrens in the Grade I Woodward on September 16th. Although the Woodward was Lemon Drop Kid's sixth Grade I win of his career, some argued that the four-year-old colt had to work too hard in defeating Behrens, a six-year-old who had only won one race since July 5th, 1999. Lemon Drop Kid had won his three previous races, the Grade II Brooklyn, Suburban and Grade I Whitney Handicap by open lengths. "He still got the job done," said Schulhofer's son and assistant, Randy. "He'll improve off the Woodward. I really think his best distance is 10 furlongs. He gets that on Saturday." The Jockey Club Gold Cup will be Lemon Drop Kid's last start in New York and second to last of his career. After the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 4th, Lemon Drop Kid will be retired and sent to Lane's End Farm near Versailles, Ky. for stud duty. "I'm going to miss him around the barn," the younger Schulhofer said. "You work the long hours in hopes of getting a horse of this caliber. I think everyone around here has gotten attached to him. This guy's had a great career."Shop Here, a 2-year-old Dehere filly bred and owned by Hobeau Farm, had her final tuneup for Saturday's Grade I, $500,000 Frizette Stakes this morning, breezing five furlongs over the main track in 1:01 4/5. "She doesn't need much," Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens said. "It was an easy breeze." Shop Here, two-for-three lifetime, was most impressive in her September 27th victory at Belmont Park, winning a $43,000 allowance race by six and a half lengths. Among those she defeated in that front-running score was the highly regarded Serena's Tune, a filly by Mr. Prospector-Serena's Song by Rahy. "She did look good the other day," Jerkens said. "She had the rail and had no problem dueling the favorite (Serena's Tune) into defeat. She proved in her debut that she doesn't need the lead to win. The way she's won her last two, it makes you think that she wants to run longer." The Frizette will be no easy task for Shop Here. Among those she will be lining up in the gate with is Raging Fever, winner of the Matron and four-for-four lifetime, and Dancinginmydreams, a full sister to champion Heavenly Prize who lost the Matron by a mere head after gaining about 10 lengths in the stretch. "It's going to be tough," Jerkens said. "But what do you expect? The race is a Grade I and carries a $500,000 purse. Of course there's going to be good horses in there." Shopping (by Private Account,) Shop Here's dam, has become a useful broodmare of Hobeau Farm's breeding and racing operations. Among the other runners she has dropped is Bought in Dixie, a quick sprinter and winner of almost $200,000 and Bulling, a temperamental colt, who at times, as proved he can really run. Bulling ran fourth in last year's Grade I Champagne. Jerkens has trained both Bought in Dixie and Bulling. "She could be the fastest one she (Shopping) has dropped so far," Jerkens said. "Her babies have really showed a lot of talent as 2-year-olds. I think Shop Here will continue to improve."Charles Thompson's City Zip, who has been remarkably consistent this season, winning five-of-nine starts and more than $416,000, will receive his toughest test to date in Saturday's Grade I, $500,000 Champagne for 2-year-olds at a mile and a sixteenth. City Zip has had a month to recuperate from his fierce (Grade I) Futurity stretch duel with Burning Roma on September 17th, a race in which City Zip finished first but was disqualified for coming out in the final strides. This is the longest break City Zip has had between races since the beginning of the summer. "He's done well since the Futurity and I was happy he got a month off from racing," trainer Linda Rice said. "I think he'll stretchout, but you never know until they do it." City Zip showed a tremendous amount of poise in Saratoga's Grade I Hopeful, getting up to dead-heat with Yonaguska, whom he'll meet again on Saturday. After racing in tight and on the inside throughout most of the race, City Zip was forced to run six wide into the stretch and gamely surged late for the dead-heat victory. The Futurity played a different scenario as City Zip dueled through intense fractions of :23 and :46 1/5 and never got a breather in that eight-furlong stake. "I'm kind of looking for a happy medium in the Champagne," Rice said. "He was too far back and too wide in the Hopeful and then he was too close to the pace in the Futurity. I still think he's at his best when he comes from off the pace and has a target to run at. That's what I'd like to see on Saturday. I'm hoping for a clean, stalking trip off the speed. If he gets that, the distance will be no problem." As of now, City Zip, a four-time graded stakes winner, is the leader of the 2-year-old division. New faces, however, have begun to pop up and there are a handful of talented youngsters that are beginning to improve day-by-day. A.P. Valentine, who is scheduled to run in the Champagne for trainer Nick Zito, is just one of many colts on the upswing. "I've been impressed the most by Flame Thrower (winner of California's Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk) and Arabian Light (winner of Sunday's Lanes End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland,)" Rice said. "The Champagne is going to be a tough race for us. There are some new shooters in there and Yonaguska is always tough." Jose Santos, City Zip's regular rider, has the mount. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is scheduled to arrive at Belmont on Friday evening. Lukas, who is shooting for his third Champagne victory on Saturday, will saddle Robert Baker's Scorpion and Michael Tabor's Yonaguska. Lukas won the Champagne with Timer Country, the '94 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and Grand Slam in '97. "Both colts are doing excellent," New York assistant Mike Marlow said. "Scorpion has had the look of a horse that wants longer races and Yonaguska has proved himself already. It's a great day of racing on Saturday."