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John Leeper returns to the fray in Gala Stakes at Sandown

John Leeper will look to bounce back to winning ways when he takes on the Listed Gala Stakes at Sandown on Friday.

The Ed Dunlop-trained three-year-old was last seen finishing ninth in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom, a race in which he started at 8-1 following two impressive successes earlier in the season.

The Frankel colt, who is named after Dunlop’s late father and is out of his star filly Snow Fairy, will now take a step down in grade and trip to line up for the Listed contest at the Esher track.

Returning to a a mile and a quarter, John Leeper faces four rivals as he bids to get back to winning ways and reunites with jockey Adam Kirby after Frankie Dettori took to the saddle at Epsom.

“He seems very well, I don’t think he had a very hard race in the Derby but then you never really know that until you reappear,” Dunlop said.

“We’re looking forward to seeing him run again, Frankie suggested we go back to a mile and a quarter and that’s what we’re doing.

“We’d love to be running against our own age level, but we couldn’t see any lesser-class races for that (three-year-olds) existing.”

Dunlop is not ruling out a return to a mile and a half in the future, but will see how his charge fares in his next assignment before making firm plans.

“I think potentially we’ve got the latter-season races to go back up in trip,” he said.

“Let’s see how we get on at Sandown, it’s a very strong race against Euchen Glen and the older horses, we’ll see how we go.”

Euchen Glen returns to the scene of his Group Three Brigadier Gerard success, where he was an impressive four-and-a-half-length victor when starting at 20-1.

Euchen Glen winning the Brigadier Gerard Stakes, also held at Sandown
Euchen Glen winning the Brigadier Gerard Stakes, also held at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Trainer Jim Goldie reports the eight-year-old to be in fine fettle ahead of the race – but remains mindful of the potential class of John Leeper.

“He’s in good form,” he said.

“Obviously there’s a Derby horse running against us, so it will be interesting.

“We knew going into it we’d be coming up against one or two like that, but they will need to be quite good to beat him, I would imagine.

“I’d imagine he (John Leeper) is quite a good horse, the way he won at Newmarket, and you can never judge a horse just on the Derby.”

Andrew Balding’s Fox Tal finished third behind Euchen Glen at Sandown, with the two geldings crossing paths again in the Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot, where the latter horse was fifth and Fox Tal was seventh.

“He was the last horse off the bridle at Ascot and didn’t see it out,” said Alastair Donald, racing manager to owner King Power Racing.

Fox Tal ridden by Oisin Murphy (centre left)
Fox Tal ridden by Oisin Murphy (centre left) (Tim Goode/PA)

“He ran well at Sandown the time before and should be there or thereabouts.”

Making up the field of five are Roger Varian’s Father Of Jazz, who was ninth in the Wolferton, and Martyn Meade’s Gloucestershire, who won his only start to date at Kempton in December.