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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.”