Lemon Drop Kid begins his final assault on Horse of the Year honors today in the $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park.
Owned by Jinny Vance and Laddie Dance, the 4-year-old colt is on a three-race win streak and is ranked No. 1 in the country. He takes on four runners in one of the nation's most prestigious races for older horses.
Vance and Dance, who are married, own Taylor's Purchase Farm in Baltimore County.
Lemon Drop, as his owners call him, is slated for the Grade I Woodward and two more Grade I stakes before retiring to stud at Lane's End Farm in Kentucky. He is to compete Oct. 14 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont and close out his career Nov. 4 in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
"He's doing great," said Scotty Schulhofer, his Hall of Fame trainer. "It's going to be a little different this time because you've got a speed horse in there from California."
The speed horse is Skimming, fresh from a convincing victory Aug. 26 in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Since joining Bobby Frankel's stable in southern California earlier this year, Skimming has won four of six races. Previously, the 4-year-old son of Nureyev had raced in Europe.
"We'll just have to deal with it," said Schulhofer, oozing confidence that Lemon Drop can handle Skimming. "I don't think he'll have any problem. He can do anything [rider] Edgar [Prado] wants him to do."
Since Prado began riding Lemon Drop Kid in May, the colt has won three of four races. Since being fitted with blinkers in June, Lemon Drop Kid has won three straight and displayed the speed and versatility necessary to stalk Skimming early and attack late in the 1 1/8 -mile race.
In addition to those two, the five-horse Woodward field includes Behrens, Ecton Park and Gander.
With a post time of 4:40 p.m., the Woodward will be televised live on ESPN2.
As the buildup begins for the Breeders' Cup, the weekend at Belmont features three other Grade I stakes. Today, the $250,000 Ruffian Handicap showcases fillies and mares. Tomorrow, the $200,000 Futurity features 2-year-old males and the $200,000 Matron 2-year-old fillies.