Derby also-ran John Leeper takes on elders for first time in Listed heat
Davies Insurance Services Gala Stakes (Listed Race) | 1m2f | 3yo+ | RTV
John Leeper is out to get his season back on track after failing to live up to expectations when finishing 20 lengths behind Adayar in the Derby last month.
The fact he was sent off at 8-1 is probably a fairer representation of his ability but despite taking a significant drop in grade, he will face older horses for the first time on Friday in a what is an intriguing clash of the generations.
"I think the Derby was largely inconclusive," said his trainer Ed Dunlop. "He was right at the back and came around the outside. Frankie Dettori felt he didn't stay at this stage of his career but we learnt very little of what level of ability we're talking about.
"We've decided to drop down in class and to a mile and a quarter, but would have loved to have been taking on three-year-olds only.
"He didn't appear to have a hard race at Epsom and he's been fresh and well all this week."
Adam Kirby had been due to partner John Leeper at Epsom until Dettori became available, but in a remarkable twist of fate Kirby ended up partnering Adayar to the biggest victory of his career.
The merry-go-round turns once more on Friday, with Kirby confirmed for the ride on John Leeper on this occasion.
"Adam has ridden him two or three times at home and rode him in a gallop at Epsom before the Derby, so we're thrilled to have him," said Dunlop.
He faces a formidable opponent in Scottish raider Euchen Glen, who landed the Brigadier Gerard Stakes on his last visit to Sandown and could conceivably have been running in Saturday's Group 1 Coral-Eclipse. He was last seen finishing fifth in the Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot.
"With a better draw he'd have probably finished closer at Ascot but he's none the worse for it," said his trainer Jim Goldie. "Maybe we should have been in the Eclipse. We debated it but this is an interesting race and we've got to give weight away to a horse who was fancied for the Derby.
"If John Leeper is a Derby horse he will beat us but we're top-rated and have been there, seen it and done it. We're thinking the Champion Stakes at Ascot at the end of the season as a big target."
Fox Tal has finished behind Euchen Glen on his last two starts but reopposes once again under Silvestre de Sousa. He finished seventh in the Wolferton, two places in front of Father Of Jazz, who takes his chance for Roger Varian and Callum Shepherd.
Gloucestershire, mooted as a possible Derby contender earlier in the season, makes his belated comeback having overcome an infection in his off-hind.
A winner of his only race at Kempton in December, he rates a fascinating contender in a fascinating contest.
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