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John Leeper set to return at either Kempton or Longchamp

John Leeper is set to return to action at the weekend in either the Unibet September Stakes at Kempton or the Prix du Prince d’Orange at ParisLongchamp.

The September Stakes is over a mile and a half on Saturday, with the French race over a mile and a quarter on Sunday.

The three-year-old colt, named after trainer Ed Dunlop’s late father, John, is on course to run for the first time in nine weeks in one of the two races.

The beautifully-bred son of Frankel out of six-times Group One-winning mare Snow Fairy was given a break after finishing third to Euchen Glen in the Listed Gala Stakes at Sandown in early July.

“Things weren’t right after Sandown. We weren’t happy with him and as a result of that he went and had a holiday. He was turned out for a month,” said the Newmarket handler.

“He’s come back and we’ve been very pleased with him and he seems much happier.

“He won’t have a penalty for winning a Listed race, so as long as he remains healthy and well, we’ll take him to Kempton or there’s a chance he might go to France on Sunday for the Group Three over a mile and a quarter.”

Hukum will set a high standard in the September Stakes
Hukum will set a high standard in the September Stakes (Martin Rickett/PA)

After winning at Newcastle and Newmarket in the spring, John Leeper was fancied for the Cazoo Derby but the race did not work out and he was well-beaten behind Adayar.

The nine entries for the September Stakes are headed by the Owen Burrows-trained Hukum, winner of Group Three races at York and Newbury on his last two starts.

Saeed bin Suroor has the in-form Passion And Glory, who completed a hat-trick in the Group Three Glorious Stakes at Goodwood, while Charlie Fellowes’ Prince Of Arran could try to better his two third placed efforts in the last two runnings of this race.

The possibles are completed by Brunnera, Fox Tal, Hamish, Outbox and Palavecino.

John Leeper set to return in September Stakes

John Leeper is likely to attempt to get back on track in the Unibet September Stakes at Kempton on Saturday.

The three-year-old colt, named after trainer Ed Dunlop’s late father, John, is on course for the Group Three contest over a mile and a half.

The beautifully-bred son of Frankel out of six-times Group One-winning mare Snow Fairy was given a break after finishing third to Euchen Glen in the Listed Gala Stakes at Sandown in early July.

“Things weren’t right after Sandown. We weren’t happy with him and as a result of that he went and had a holiday. He was turned out for a month,” said the Newmarket handler.

“He’s come back and we’ve been very pleased with him. He seems much happier and this is the race we chose for his comeback.

“He seems to like the all-weather. There’s still the uncertainty of the trip, but at this time of year it’s the right kind of level without carrying a penalty for winning a Listed race, so we’re more than likely, as long as he remains healthy and well, going to take him there.”

After winning at Newcastle and Newmarket in the spring, John Leeper was fancied for the Cazoo Derby, but the race did not work out and he was well-beaten behind Adayar.

Hukum will set a high standard in the September Stakes
Hukum will set a high standard in the September Stakes (Martin Rickett/PA)

The nine entries for the September Stakes are headed by the Owen Burrows-trained Hukum, winner of Group Three races at York and Newbury on his last two starts.

Saeed bin Suroor has the in-form Passion And Glory, who completed a hat-trick in the Group Three Glorious Stakes at Goodwood, while Charlie Fellowes’ Prince Of Arran could try to better his two third-placed efforts in the last two runnings of this race.

The possibles are completed by Brunnera, Fox Tal, Hamish, Outbox and Palavecino.

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.

Gala date for Derby disappointment John Leeper

John Leeper will aim to redeem his reputation in the Davies Insurance Services Gala Stakes at Sandown next Friday.

The Ed Dunlop-trained colt caught the imagination of the racing public in the lead up to the Derby at Epsom given he was by Frankel, out of Dunlop’s great racemare Snow Fairy and named after the handler’s father.

However, he was very keen in the hands of Frankie Dettori and dropped away in the straight to be beaten 20 lengths. In a quirk of fate, Dettori was a late replacement for Adam Kirby, who went on to win the Classic on Charlie Appleby’s Adayar.

John Leeper had a gallop at Epsom before the Derby under Adam Kirby - who won the race on Adayar
John Leeper had a gallop at Epsom before the Derby under Adam Kirby – who won the race on Adayar (Adam Davy/PA)

“All being well and everything being equal, we’re probably going to go to Sandown next Friday in a Listed race over a mile and a quarter and we’ll see how we get on there,” said Dunlop.

“There is a race in France next weekend for three-year-olds over a mile and a quarter if I’m not happy with Sandown, but at the moment we’re heading to Sandown.

“We’d like to sort of drop down before going back up again. Sandown is a stiff 10 furlongs which will suit.

“He was a bit keen at Epsom and Frankie suggested we drop him back in trip, this seems an ideal race. We’ve always thought on pedigree and looks he should stay a mile and a half, but we mustn’t forget he’s only run four times in his life.

“He did a lot in a month, going from a Newcastle novice to the Derby with a Listed race in between. He fell into everyone’s dream given his pedigree and being named after my father and people latched on.

“That dream has gone now, we’ve moved on and he’s a horse we’re in no rush with. He should be better as an older horse and we retain utmost faith in him.

“It didn’t happen at Epsom, but the one thing was he didn’t have a hard race – when Frankie knew he wasn’t going to be involved he just let him coast home.”

Connections of Mojo Star so proud of huge effort in Derby

Connections of Mojo Star are excited for the future after the maiden ran the race of his life to finish second at odds of 50-1 in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom.

Trained by Richard Hannon for owner Kia Joorabchian, Mojo Star had just two previous runs under his belt ahead of the premier Classic, finishing second in two Newbury maidens in October and last month.

Partnered by David Egan, Mojo Star defied his inexperience to chase home impressive four-and-a-half-length winner Adayar, and Joorabchian, who is involved in the football industry, believes his Sea The Stars colt has some big days ahead of him.

He said: “It’s very, very exciting. It’s the first time I’ve been involved in the Derby and he’s run a great race. It was a fantastic run.

“Richard and Rossa (Ryan, his retained rider, who is currently injured) always loved this horse and always spoke about him very highly.

“Today he proved it, and that’s only his third run. You have to remember he’s quite inexperienced and he’s going to get better from here, and he’s going to be brilliant. Richard has a lot of belief in the horse and thinks he can go further and further, so we are very excited.

“I remember when we bought him Ross Doyle was very keen on him. Since then we’ve been patient with him and it’s proving to be very successful, as finishing second in the Derby is not an easy thing to do. We are a young operation – still a baby operation – and we are up against the big Goliaths.

“I’m loving being in racing.”

Hannon added: “This is a massive day for the owner. There’s more to life than winning the Derby, and it’s just what he needs. He wanted to come here and we always thought he was very good. He’s got loads of horses and that will cheer him up.

“We’ve got enough money now from this to throw at some fancy entries.”

Adayar was one of three runners for Charlie Appleby, who also saddled third-placed Hurricane Lane. He said: “He’s finished third in a Derby and is going to be a contender in some of the other big races in the year.”

Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney was fourth for veteran handler Jim Bolger, and jockey Kevin Manning thought it was a fair effort.

He said: “I had a good run all the way, but he just didn’t pick up in the straight. The ground may have been a bit dead for him, but it was a good run.”

Third Realm, conqueror of Adayar in Lingfield Derby Trial, was a further neck back in fifth for Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni.

The rider said: “It was a pleasing run. I followed the winner through and he just got a little bit tight for room, but he stayed on quite well and didn’t disgrace himself.

“He’s still a young horse, very lightly raced and it was a nice run.”

Bolshoi Ballet was sent off the 11-8 market leader, but could finish only seventh as the sole representative for Aidan O’Brien this year.

The Ballydoyle handler said: “He just ran a bit lifeless. What the reason was, I’m not sure.

“It doesn’t work every day. That’s the way life is.

“I don’t want to make excuses because I don’t want to take away from the other horses.

“He was in the perfect position. He wants nice ground and maybe that was the reason.”

It was subsequently found at a post-race examination by the veterinary officer that the Galileo colt had been struck into on his right-hind in the early stages of the race.

Tom Marquand, rider of eighth-placed Youth Spirit, thought his mount had found the 12-furlong trip a stretch.

He said: “He probably melted a bit just beforehand – we travelled beautifully throughout and (they) probably just galloped the legs off him over a mile and a half on this ground.

“We’ll probably come back a couple of furlongs and hopefully see him back to his best.”

John Leeper was well fancied for Ed Dunlop and Frankie Dettori, but he trailed home in ninth place on his first try at the distance.

Dettori said: “It was just too far for him at this stage of his life. We’ll go back to a mile and a quarter.”

The Mark Johnston-trained Gear Up set the early gallop and was in front until the two-furlong marker, but eventually beaten a total of 21 lengths.

Jockey Ben Curtis said: “My race was very straightforward. We jumped out, led and everything went perfectly. I thought I’d pick up nicely heading into the straight and then I just lacked maybe for a gear up the home straight.”

Southern Lights finished last of the 11 contenders on what was just his fourth outing for trainer Joseph O’Brien.

Rider Declan McDonogh said: “He was disappointing. He got a lot of bumping around and had a tough trip, but he probably just wasn’t ready for the experience.”

John Leeper has Dettori on his side, with emotional Derby day in prospect

Ed Dunlop is delighted to have old ally Frankie Dettori on his side at the 11th hour as he puts the final touches to John Leeper’s bid for the Cazoo Derby.

Dunlop approached Dettori some time ago – but it looked for all money that the 50-year-old would be aboard High Definition, for Aidan O’Brien.

When the Ballydoyle trainer announced on Wednesday that Bolshoi Ballet would be his only runner in the blue riband, with stable number one Ryan Moore aboard, Dunlop wasted no time in contacting Dettori at the request of owner Cristina Patino.

What a fairytale it would be too if Dettori can guide John Leeper to victory on Saturday. He partnered his dam Snow Fairy in the same red and yellow colours to triumph in her very last race, the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

Dettori is a two-time Derby winner, as was Dunlop’s late father John – after whom Snow Fairy’s offspring by Frankel is named.

Snow Fairy and Frankie Dettori after their victory in the Irish Champion Stakes in 2012
Snow Fairy and Frankie Dettori after their victory in the Irish Champion Stakes in 2012 (PA)

“Mrs Patino instructed me after the news about Ballydoyle only running one,” said Dunlop.

“I approached Frankie very early on. He rides a lot for Aidan O’Brien now in England. He was presuming he was going to ride for Aidan, and obviously that hasn’t transpired.

“I was asked by Mrs Patino to see whether he was available to ride the horse. He rode Snow Fairy in the Arc and he won the Irish Champion on her, so he knows the mother well.”

Dettori got the leg-up John Leeper for the first time on Thursday, and all went well.

“Frankie rode him this morning. He gave him a canter up Warren Hill – and he was pleased with him – so it’s all systems go, hopefully,” said Dunlop.

“I’ve spoken to Frankie since the draw, and he’s happy to be drawn up there in stall 12 rather than down the bottom, and now we just hope for the best.”

Dettori was impressed with John Leeper, saying: “He’s a lovely big horse that fills the eye, and we’re hopefully yet to see the best of him. His form up until now is good, but the Derby is a big step up – and we’ll only know on Saturday afternoon if he’s good enough.

“Funnily enough, I thought his ears were just like Snow Fairy’s, but he’s much bigger than she was, and his stride is much more like a Frankel. You can certainly see the mix between the two great horses, and hopefully he turns out to be nearly as good as one of them.”

As for coming in for the ride at the expense of Adam Kirby, Dettori told his Sporting Index blog: “I was pencilled in to ride for Aidan in the Derby, but the news came out that he only had one runner, and I was then contacted by the Ed Dunlop team about John Leeper.

“I feel very sorry for Adam. He’s done most of the work on the horse and rode him (in a gallop) at Epsom last week – I can’t stress that enough.

John Leeper returns following his victory at Newmarket
John Leeper returns following his victory at Newmarket (PA)

“It’s not nice to be taken off a horse three days before the Derby. But it’s not my decision – I don’t pay the bills, and it’s an offer you can’t refuse as a jockey.

“It was a strange feeling, and I certainly didn’t come home with a happy face on Thursday because it’s not the way you want to get rides – but it is what it is, and we have to move on. I didn’t go looking for it – it just came to me. I know the owners very well, having ridden Snow Fairy a few times, and am still very grateful to pick up the ride.”

Kirby’s anguish at being jocked off John Leeper has been tempered with the news he will ride Adayar for Charlie Appleby. Champion jockey Oisin Murphy had been down to take the mount.

Dunlop reports his Derby contender to be in tip-top condition.

“The horse is in good form. We’re very happy with him,” he said.

“There’s another two days to go – so long may that continue – but we’re very pleased with the way he is.”

The Newmarket handler is confident there will be no problems with the ground – which after a dry spell will be much different to conditions when he took John Leeper for a spin round the track last week.

“For the Epsom Derby, the ground is always beautiful,” he said.

“Obviously, they’ve kept a fresh strip for the Derby. There is a hint of some rain coming on Friday. They might get a few millimetres, but I’ve seen they are watering away at Epsom, so I’m sure it will be beautiful ground for all of them.

“We went to (the event formerly known as) Breakfast With The Stars when it was very soft ground. Now it’s drying up, the grass is growing is very well, I’m sure there will be a lovely cover.”

The day is certain to be full of emotion for everyone connected with John Leeper.

“It will be a very emotional day and for the owner, who named the horse after my father,” Dunlop added.

“Let us hope the horse doesn’t let us down, but we’ll dust ourselves off if it doesn’t happen. He’s a horse that hopefully has got a very decent future ahead of him, and this is the first stage of it.”

John Leeper delights Dunlop in racecourse spin

Ed Dunlop is counting down the days until the Cazoo Derby with John Leeper following a pleasing racecourse gallop at Epsom on Monday.

Bred in the purple as a son of Frankel out of the trainer’s 2010 Oaks heroine Snow Fairy, the three-year-old has earned himself a crack at the premier Classic with spring victories at Newcastle and Newmarket.

With just three career outings under his belt, Dunlop was keen to give his charge a feel for the undulations of Epsom before the big day and was delighted with what he saw.

He said: “We were never going to do too much, whether the ground was nice or not, as he only ran the weekend before last. This was about bringing him to get a bit more experience with Adam (Kirby) on him. The ground was very soft, almost heavy, but he looked to enjoy himself.

“Hopefully everything will be OK and we will be back here on the first Saturday in June. He is an inexperienced horse, but what I was pleased to see today was that he has been very relaxed doing the whole thing.

“He is not a baby, but everything was new to him today. I was thrilled with the way he behaved and he wasn’t keen going down the hill, which was good as they were only going slowly.

“He has got to step up markedly to be competitive in the Derby, which at the moment the Irish look like they have a stranglehold on. We will just keep him fit, healthy and sound leading up to the race and the rest will be up to the Gods.”

Given the exciting colt is named after the Newmarket handler’s late father John Dunlop, there are likely to be plenty of tears in the winner’s enclosure should he strike Derby gold on Saturday week.

“It is probably one of the more interesting stories of the race,” Dunlop added.

“Having a horse named after my father is very exciting, and it creates a little bit of pressure for everyone, but at the moment the horse has no idea there is any pressure on him, so hopefully we can enjoy it.

“Of course it is quite emotional and it would be a great day if he could go on and win the Derby.”

John Leeper will be ridden by Adam Kirby, who also partners Saffron Beach in the Cazoo Oaks.

He said: “I’ve got two very nice horses to ride at Epsom this year, so let’s hope we have a bit of luck on our side.

Adam Kirby on board John Leeper at Epsom
Adam Kirby on board John Leeper at Epsom (Adam Davy/PA)

“It was brilliant when I got the call to ride John Leeper. I didn’t know whether Ed was winding me up as he has got that in him, but luckily he wasn’t! It is a great ride to pick up and thanks to Ed and all the connections.

“Today was the second time that I have sat on him. I was really pleased with him. He settled lovely on the way down. He didn’t get worked up or in a stew. He relaxed beautifully in behind and when I pulled him out in the straight, he gave me a really good feel.”

Another Derby hopeful to enjoy a Monday morning spin over the famous Downs was the Charlie Appleby-trained One Ruler.

The son of Dubawi will be running in his second Classic, having finished a respectable sixth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

One Ruler and jockey James Doyle at Epsom
One Ruler and jockey James Doyle at Epsom (Adam Davy/PA)

Reflecting on his morning workout, Appleby said: “I was very pleased with what I saw there. He is a naturally balanced horse, but he hasn’t encountered anything like that before.

“The whole object of the exercise was to let him have a look at the track, but more importantly he was fresh in the Guineas.

“We already had it in our mindset that we were going to come straight from the Guineas to the Derby. We felt that bringing him here would ensure we wouldn’t be going into the Derby too fresh.

“He is a horse that has form on soft ground, so these conditions weren’t going to worry us. He has moved well on the track and picked up well up the straight there. Visually, I don’t think you could be any happier with what we saw really.”

The Moulton Paddocks maestro admits to having some doubt about whether One Ruler’s stamina will last out over a mile and a half, adding: “If the race was 10 furlongs you would be delighted. It is going to be a big question mark, the mile and a half.”

James Doyle partnered the colt in his gallop and will do so in the Derby, with William Buick siding with his Dante-winning stable companion Hurricane Lane.

“William had the choice of them and we spoke about it,” said Appleby.

“Without putting too much pressure on William, I said it would be helpful from the team’s point of view to make a call as it gives James the chance to ride him here if he is going to be riding him in the Derby.

“William said it is not very often that you get the chance to ride a Dante winner in the Derby, so his mind was firmly set on staying with Hurricane Lane and therefore James is first man to be jumping up on One Ruler.

“I’m delighted with Hurricane Lane. As you saw at York, he is one of those characters that is very laid back. He just goes about his business, but he has come out of the race very well and I’m looking forward to getting him here.”

Charlie Appleby (left) with his Derby hero Masar
Charlie Appleby (left) with his Derby hero Masar (Simon Cooper/PA)

Appleby will be bidding for a second Derby victory following the success of Masar in 2018.

He added: “The day of Masar was one we will never forget from myself, my family and the team’s point of view.

“He was the first horse to win in the Godolphin blue and for His Highness (Sheikh Mohammed) and the Royal family to be here, it was a very special occasion.

“We all know winning the Derby is something everyone would love to have on their CV.”

Adam Kirby booked for John Leeper Derby ride

Adam Kirby is looking forward to the big-race ride on Cazoo Derby hopeful John Leeper at Epsom next month.

Kirby will be on board Ed Dunlop’s colt, currently among the most prominent British hopes in the ante-post market for the Classic on June 5.

He has also already ridden John Leeper on the gallops, and is confident he will be suited by his Epsom assignment.

A clutch of other high-profile jockeys had been linked with the possibility of riding the son of the mighty Frankel and Dunlop’s Snow Fairy – who won the 2010 Oaks for the same owners.

But confirming reports that he will be in the saddle, Kirby told Sky Sports Racing: “I’m really pleased with that – thanks to all connections.

“I’m looking forward to him.”

John Leeper, named after Dunlop’s father and training great John, has won both his starts this season – under Hollie Doyle and most recently William Buick, in a Listed race at Newmarket last weekend.

He pulled hard in that slowly-run contest over 10 furlongs, but Kirby expects a different set of circumstances in the Derby.

“I’ve sat on him, and he’s a lovely moving horse,” he added.

“I wouldn’t describe him as keen – he just covers a lot of ground.

“I hope it’s a true-run race, and it will be fine.”

Derby dream builds with John Leeper

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.”

John Leeper maintains family honour at Newmarket

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.

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.”

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.”

Bellosa added to Jane Chapple-Hyam’s strength in the fillies’ department with victory in the Betway King Charles II Stakes, to stay unbeaten.

Making all, the 6-4 favourite did drift across to the stands rail in the closing stags, but had enough in hand to readily hold Fundamental.

Chapple-Hyam – whose Saffron Beach found only Mother Earth too good in the 1000 Guineas – said: “She is nice, but she was green. She has never been among a batch of horses. She is so good out of the gates, she wants to get on with it. I didn’t want Richard to drag her back as she has got such a lovely long stride.

“I would prefer to go for the Jersey Stakes at Ascot as it is up the straight and we have beaten some boys today, but we will just see how she come out the race.”

She added: “For now on her third start I would like to remain at seven, but in time when she relaxes in her races she could step up to a mile or next year as a four-year-old.

“If Sir Edmund (Loder, owner-breeder) is happy we will put her in the Jersey Stakes. We will all sleep on it and see how she is and make a plan.

“I feel mentally there is more improvement in her and with more racing she will get the hang of it.”

Derby dream on the line for John Leeper

John Leeper takes on five rivals as the impeccably-bred colt bids to enhance his reputation in the Betway Fairway Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

The son of Frankel, out of multiple Group One-winning mare Snow Fairy, got off the mark in eyecatching fashion at Newcastle two weeks ago on his second career start.

Named after trainer Ed Dunlop’s late father John, the three-year-old colt is highly-regarded and holds entries in some major races, including the Cazoo Derby.

“The Dante looked a very strong race on paper and he had the option of going to Newmarket instead,” said the Newmarket handler.

“We didn’t want firm ground at Newmarket but with the rain we have had that is not going to be the case, so we discussed it and decided to come here.

“He won a novice at Newcastle very impressively from a difficult draw but we are under no illusions he still has a long way to go yet. He was an immature horse last year and he only had the one run but we hoped that he would improve from two to three.

“He won his novice over a mile and a quarter and I’m sure he will stay further. William Buick rode him first time out and he knows the horse. Hopefully we will learn a lot more on Saturday.”

Fancy Man has to give weight all round for winning the Listed Ascendant Stakes at Haydock.

The Richard Hannon-trained colt has already had two races this season and was third in the Chester Vase last week.

Mark Johnston’s Sea The Shells has to bounce back from a disappointing run at Sandown after creating a big impression when winning his first two starts.

Assistant trainer Charlie Johnston said: “We have no idea what happened at Sandown and nothing concrete has come to light. It was too bad to be true.

“It is not the normal route getting stuffed in a handicap to then go into a Listed race but options off his mark were limited. This was a nice opportunity to run on a nice track on decent ground in a small field.”

He went on: “He was very impressive early in his first two starts but then last time was a reality check. We are on a fact-finding mission on Saturday and hopefully we can get back on track.”

Jane Chapple-Hyam reports Bellosa to be in good order ahead of putting her unbeaten record on the line in the Betway King Charles II Stakes.

The three-year-old Awtaad filly bolted up by seven lengths over the course and distance on her debut.

Bellosa was a hugely impressive winner on her debut
Bellosa was a hugely impressive winner on her debut (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Chapple-Hyam said: “Bellosa has trained well since her win last time and I’m very pleased with her. I can’t see the rain we have being a problem as she goes on any ground in training.

“I don’t think she will get an easy lead like last time as it will be more competitive, but she doesn’t have to lead as she is a very relaxed filly.

“We thought she would go well last time but she just kept finding when she hit the rising ground and didn’t come back to them. Oisin (Murphy) said we could come back in trip with her but I was happy to stay at seven. This is a learning curve for us – it will tell us what she is capable of.”

Derby contender John Leeper heading to Newmarket

John Leeper will seek to enhance his reputation in the Fairway Stakes at Newmarket Stakes on Saturday, after the impeccably-bred colt was not declared for the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes.

Trainer Ed Dunlop is looking to run the son of Frankel and Snow Fairy – who won 16 Group Ones between them – at his local track as ground conditions are expected to be more suitable than at York on Thursday.

John Leeper, named after Dunlop’s late father, got off the mark in highly promising fashion at Newcastle last month following an encouraging run on his only run as a two-year-old at Doncaster in September.

“He runs on Saturday at Newmarket, all being well,” said Dunlop.

“We thought it was the right thing to go to Newmarket. All this rain we’d had recently meant the ground was slightly better here.

“It gave him a little bit more time after his win and therefore we’re going to run there. We’ll see what happens and take it from there.”

Snow Fairy returns victorious in the Oaks
Snow Fairy returns victorious in the Oaks (Sean Dempsey/PA)

John Leeper holds an entry in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on June 5, for which he is generally available at 20-1, having shortened considerably in the market on the premier Classic since his Newcastle win under Hollie Doyle.

He is also engaged in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh.

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.

“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.”