John Leeper victory fuels Derby dreams

There are few horses in training better bred than John Leeper, who opened his account impressively at Newcastle and sparked Classic dreams for his connections.

The son of Frankel and Snow Fairy, who won 16 Group Ones between them, John Leeper is trained – like his dam – by Ed Dunlop.

A promising fourth over an inadequate seven furlongs on debut last September, he relished the step up to a mile and a quarter in the north east on Friday, beating what looked a decent field by four lengths, with Hollie Doyle struggling to pull him up afterwards.

John Leeper gets his name from Dunlop’s late father, John, the great trainer who died in July 2018 – and for all concerned his win was an emotional success.

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“It was very nice, stating the obvious,” said Dunlop.

“Hollie gave him a great ride from the draw, because we had to drop in further than we wanted to.

“He was always a horse we hoped would be a much better three-year-old.

“He’s big. A beautiful horse, he’s got size and scope and is bigger than his mother – he’s probably bigger than his father, and obviously Frankel has put some size into him.

“It was a very emotional win for lots of people, particularly his owner, Mrs Patino, who named the horse after my father. I actually spoke to her and said it was a good job she used the name on a decent horse – she said she’d been waiting.

“It’s great he looks to be talented, but there’s a long way to go yet. It’s a good start. You’d think he’d get a mile and a half.

“Between his parents they won 16 Group Ones, so he’s bred to have a chance.”

Given his breeding, John Leeper will be upped in class – and he holds entries in all the right races. His price for the Cazoo Derby ranges from 20-1 to 40-1.

Dunlop added: “Options are open.

“He’s in the Derby, he’s in the Dante – we’ll consider those options and obviously the other trials, but it is relatively close for a trial and then the Derby.

“He lacks experience, we know that – but we’re all thinking about it, we won’t make a rash decision. He’s also in the King Edward VII at Ascot, so he’s got options, but he will be stepped up in class because I think he deserves it.

“He’s hopefully a horse that will give all of us some great fun.”

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