Is the hype about John Leeper justified? Tom Collins on a tricky Fairway Stakes
Betway Fairway Stakes (Listed) | 1m2f | 3yo | RTV/ITV
Proven ability versus untapped potential is a big talking point with younger horses at this stage of the season. Bookmakers often tentatively price those with the latter and it can easily distort the market.
John Leeper may be a prime example in the Fairway Stakes given he's a general 6-4 shot after winning an average Newcastle novice event on his three-year-old reappearance.
There is no doubting that he was visually impressive 15 days ago and the time (1.61sec slower than standard) compared well to two handicaps on the same card. However, he will face a completely different test on the undulating Rowley Mile and that clearly has not been factored into his odds.
On RPRs, he has the best part of a stone to find with standard-setter Fancy Man and, although he may well prove to be the best of these, relative inexperience and numerous question marks regarding turf, the track and level of competition makes him hard to support.
In Fancy Man's case, you have a horse who already boasts an official rating (106) that is good enough to win an average edition of this race. He just needs to run to his mark. However, he has to give 4lb away to all five of his rivals after scoring at Listed level last year. Will the weight bog him down?
Trainer Sir Mark Todd is waiting for his first bona fide Group performer and might have one in Tasman Bay, who loomed up large at Newbury last time but was eventually outstayed by subsequent Dante winner Hurricane Lane. The form was also boosted by fourth-placed River Alwen, who is now rated 101.
Along with back-to-back winners Flyin' High and Sea The Shells, Tasman Bay's success has come on the all-weather. Nevertheless, all three are bred to improve for the switch to turf and one of them could easily cause an upset.
Race analysis by Tom Collins
A Leeper faith – can Snow Fairy's son enhance Classic claims?
John Leeper faces a "different test" when he puts his Derby credentials on the line at Newmarket and when ridden for the first time by recent Dante Stakes winning jockey William Buick.
The son of six-time Group 1 winning mare Snow Fairy is bidding to win the race his namesake, John, trainer Ed Dunlop's father, won with Palavicini in 2009.
After a single outing as a juvenile at Doncaster last year, John Leeper was given plenty of time to come to himself and the patience was rewarded with a decisive win on the all-weather at Newcastle last month.
The son of Frankel was entered in the Dante at York this week but connections decided to stay closer to home with their pretender, specifically as it looks as if there will be some ease in the ground.
Dunlop said: "This will be a different test for John Leeper alright. Up to now he's gone in a straight line on a flat track at Doncaster and then around a bend on another flat track at Newcastle on the all-weather.
"The undulations on the Rowley Mile will be a bit different and he'll enjoy the juice in the ground although we don't want it too soft."
Beyond this season, Snow Fairy has not produced a two-year-old or a yearling to head to La Grange Stables in the coming years but there is an imminent arrival.
The trainer added: "There's isn't a two-year-old out of the mare on the place but I believe she's about to have a foal by Sea The Stars."
What they say
Richard Hannon, trainer of Fancy Man
He only ran last week in the Chester Vase but came out of it in such good shape we thought we'd have a crack at this. He has some experience of the Rowley Mile which should hold him in good stead.
Sir Mark Todd, trainer of Tasman Bay
The form around him from his run last time is working out well but we just hope they don't get anymore rain. Ideally, he'd like good ground but if it goes soft it'd be a worry.
Joseph Tuite, trainer of Via Sistina
She's a nice filly who we hold in some regard and if she could nick some black type we'd Be delighted. Obviously she's up against it with John Leeper in there.
Reporting by David Milnes
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