Excitement is building in the John Leeper camp as the Cazoo Derby draws near.
Trained by Ed Dunlop, the colt is out of 2010 Oaks heroine Snow Fairy – whom Dunlop also trained and was owned and bred by Mrs Christina Patino, just like John Leeper.
Dunlop’s Derby contender is named after his late father, the training great who provided Mrs Patino with plenty of winners.
Her racing manager Patrick Cooper said: “It’s brilliant – Mrs Patino has been breeding from the family for 30-odd years, so it’s very exciting.
“Snow Fairy ran six times as a two-year-old – so she was fairly well exposed when she started at three, just not quite at that level! She did go on to surprise.”
John Leeper, a son of the mighty Frankel, had just one run at two when fourth over an inadequate seven furlongs at Doncaster, before breaking his maiden over 10 furlongs at Newcastle in April and then winning a Listed race at Newmarket on Saturday.
“Newcastle was a lovely display,” said Cooper.
“We didn’t know what to expect there – we were just being a bit cautious when he missed Newmarket (Craven meeting), and then Ed found the ideal race at Newcastle. He did more than we expected there, which was great, and it meant we could still dream – and we still can.
“The two races this season have been very different. Newmarket was a dog’s dinner of a race – they crawled for four and a half furlongs, or maybe more.
“He’s got a great temperament – and while you’d maybe have loved to have had one more run, the Derby is the Derby.
“It is a bit of a dream to think about the Derby with him. It’s a case of the old ‘breed the best out of the best’, and it seems to have worked.”
To date the two horses Dunlop’s career is intrinsically linked with are Snow Fairy and another Oaks winner in Ouija Board.
“Ed trained Ouija Board to win an Oaks, and she produced a Derby winner (Australia),” said Cooper.
“So it’s been done before, maybe it can be done again – it would be fantastic.
“Who rides is still up in the air. Ed and Mrs Patino are sorting that one out between them, but to be taking a horse in the Derby who is single figures (in the betting) is what you all dream about.
“Mrs Patino has three in training in England and five or six in Ireland, that’s it these days. She has eight or 10 mares – that’s the way it is – but obviously Snow Fairy is a little bit special.
“She’s been to Frankel and Sea The Stars. They were the two best horses I’ve ever seen, and we are just waiting for her to foal now.”