Ed Dunlop hopes John Leeper can keep “living up to expectations” after keeping his dream of appearing in next month’s Cazoo Derby at Epsom Downs alive with victory in the Betway Fairway Stakes at Newmarket.
The Frankel colt, who is out of Dunlop’s 2010 Oaks winner Snow Fairy, passed his trial for the Epsom showpiece with flying colours after taking a step up in class in his stride in the mile and a quarter Listed prize.
Having been keen early on, the 6-4 favourite, who is named after Dunlop’s late father, was moved into a more prominent position by William Buick three furlongs out to ensure he was not caught out in what was a tactical affair.
Despite being pressed by Tasman Bay late on John Leeper continued to find plenty for pressure to forge clear on the climb to the line before going on to score by a length and three quarters.
Dunlop said: “He’s named after my dad so that is about as much pressure as you can get. He (William Buick) said it was a farce of a race as they trotted for however long. He was a little bit keen and fresh and inexperienced but he can only get better with more racing. I’m sure the owner (Anamoine Limited, which represents the racing interests of Cristina Patino) will want to go to Epsom and she has had the dream to do it and as long as he is okay that is what we will do.
“William was good and he said I’m not going to hang about here as this horse has not done very much. The form of the race was good and though he will need to step forward again I think he deserves to go to Epsom as long as he is okay and conditions are right. I’m very pleased with the horse and for Mrs Patino particularly.
“This is only hopefully the start of a horse that will do well in the future. These are more battle-hardened horses than him and he has beaten them. I was very surprised (when the owner said she was going to name him after my dad) but she has loved the horse since he was born and he is a beautiful horse. It is a great honour for the horse to be named after my father so let’s hope he can live up to that.
“We’ve got through this stage but there are plenty more to go. He is very immature just look at the size of him and he needs more practice which is probably what you don’t want to hear going into a Derby but he has run three times in his life but he is going the right way so we will see how we go.”
Bookmaker reaction for The Cazoo Derby was varied, with Betfair going 7-1 and Betway 10-1.
A rematch at Epsom on June 5th with the runner-up could be on the cards according to his trainer, the Olympic gold medal winning eventer Sir Mark Todd.
He said: “I was very happy. It wasn’t our plan to lead but David (Probert) said he jumped so well and put himself there. He travelled a little bit keen early on. Ideally we would have a lead and be able to sit behind someone early on but he got headed two and a half furlongs out and fought on well to the line. He said he handled the undulations and I think there is a bit of improvement still. We will have a serious think in the next couple of days about whether we go onto a Derby.
“I think he wants a mile and a half and there should be a decent pace in the Derby and he will get some cover where he can switch off in behind. The dream continues at the moment.”
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