The days are counting down until the Derby, and having taken leading hope, John Leeper, on an away day to Epsom, Ed Dunlop is happy with how his charge is coming along ahead of June 5th’s Classic.
“We were very pleased with how he behaved and hopefully with what he learned from going there. I believe it would have been useful but we obviously won’t know for sure until the day,” Dunlop told Tote.
“He was very well balanced on the cambers, for all that we didn’t go very far or fast as the ground was too soft.”
A crack at the sport’s blue riband will be John Leeper’s fourth race of his career, having raced just once as a juvenile, finishing fourth at Doncaster.
His trainer explained that the backwards two-year-old suffered a minor hiccup after that run, but has returned as a three-year-old on the improve.
He’s two wins from two this term, latterly keeping on well to extend at the finish of a slowly-run Fairway Stakes at Newmarket.
He faces another two furlongs at Epsom, but the trip poses little concern for Dunlop.
“You would like to hope he’ll be OK. Obviously his mum won the Oaks and a lot of the Frankels are staying well. I’d be as confident as I can without having done it before, but obviously the proof of the pudding will be on race day.”
His dam took the fillies Classic on the same weekend 11 years ago, and while John Leeper might be on course for a similar success, he’s got a long way to go to be on par with her at this stage of life.
“He’s a long way behind Snow Fairy at this point of their careers,” Dunlop said.
“She was more experienced, ran more as a two-year-old, had won an Oaks Trial very impressively at Goodwood, but went in as a slightly long-shot in the Oaks, but of course the rest is history.
“He’s a much bigger horse which probably comes from daddy, but he’s bright, athletic and so far has been a very sound and healthy horse, so long may that continue.”
By Frankel, out of Snow Fairy and named after Ed Dunlop’s late father and legendary trainer John, the colt doesn’t want for a lofty profile, something not lost on his trainer.
“He’s by a world champion, out of a world champion and named after my dad, there doesn’t get much more pressure than that. But at the moment it’s good pressure.
“Mrs Patino named the horse after my dad, she was a longstanding client and a great friend of his, so there’s a lot of sentiment attached as you can imagine.
“That being said, if Johnny were to win the Derby we’d be very happy, not just because he’s named after my father, but simply because we’ve won the Derby.”
If his horse were to win on the Downs, it would mean that Dunlop has trained two Oaks winners who have gone on to sire Derby winners, with Ouija Board producing Australia for Derby success in 2014.
As for the race day itself, Dunlop is hoping the forecast dry weather materialises ahead of John Leeper’s date with destiny.
“The ground needs to come a long way at the moment, but we’re hoping for nice ground which looks like it will be.”
“We all know what the Downs are like, it does dry well and I’m sure Andrew Cooper will do a fantastic job.”
Dry out as many connections will hope, and John Leeper looks to have a top chance to write another fantastic chapter in the history not just of the race, but of his superstar equine parents, and the Dunlop family.
Derby Day at Epsom is the next World Pool event, where totes from around the world will combine their pools for punters to bet into. More liquidity from all over the globe, means stronger pools, and the opportunity for better Tote value.