John Leeper kept his Cazoo Derby dreams alive with victory in the Betway Fairway Stakes at Newmarket.
Bred in the purple by Frankel out of Ed Dunlop’s brilliant racemare Snow Fairy, the imposing colt carries the name of the trainer’s late father and suggested he was a smart performer in the making with an emphatic success in a novice event at Newcastle last month.
Stepped up markedly in class to Listed level on the Rowley Mile, the 6-4 favourite did almost everything wrong in the early stages as William Buick tried his best to get him to settle.
But a smooth move to the head of affairs approaching three furlongs out caught the eye – and while he did not go immediately clear as the useful Tasman Bay stuck to his guns, he was ultimately well on top at the line, looking like another two furlongs would be well within his compass.
Bookmaker reaction for Epsom was positive, with Paddy Power and Betfair going 7-1 from 16-1 while Coral went 8-1 from 12-1. Thee youngster is a best-priced 10-1 with four firms.
Dunlop was relieved as well as excited after John Leeper’s victory.
“He’s named after my dad – so that is about as much pressure as you can get,” he said.
“He (Buick) said it was a farce of a race, because 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 (Cristina Patino) will want to go to Epsom – she has had the dream to do it, and as long as he is OK that is what we will do.”
Ed Dunlop tells us more about John Leeper
Dunlop was pleased to see Buick take the initiative after the slow early gallop.
He added: “William was good and he said ‘I’m not going to hang about here because this horse has not done very much’.
“The form of the race was good – and although he will need to step forward again, I think he deserves to go to Epsom as long as he is OK and conditions are right.
“I’m very pleased with the horse and for Mrs Patino particularly.”
Whatever happens in the Derby, Dunlop is confident John Leeper will progress with age and experience.
“This is only hopefully the start of a horse that will do well in the future,” he said.
“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.
“He has run three times in his life but he is going the right way, so we will see how we go.”Simply sign up and deposit with one of our 13 betting partners and we'll send you a FREE Racing TV Speaker! In stock now and ready to ship! Click here for more details.
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