Like mother, like son? Gifted Dunlop colt may bid to emulate Snow Fairy at Epsom
The Derby dream is still alive for a significantly named and well-bred horse whose profile remains low, for the time being. John Leeper, an impressive winner at Newcastle on Friday evening, has since been attracting some market interest for the Classic and connections have now acknowledged that Epsom is very much on their minds.
"It's under consideration," said his trainer, Ed Dunlop, on Monday. "Obviously, we're still digesting after Friday's race but he's in the Dante, he has the right entries. He's a horse we always hoped would go on and do good things as a three-year-old."
John Leeper was named by his owner-breeder, Cristina Patino, in tribute to Dunlop's father, whose middle name was Leeper and who trained Shirley Heights and Erhaab to win the Derby.
The horse is a son of Frankel and the first colt out of the Ed Dunlop-trained dual Oaks winner Snow Fairy, also owned by Patino, who racked up almost £4 million in prize-money and achieved Group 1 success in Japan and Hong Kong as well as England and Ireland.
After a promising fourth on his debut at Doncaster last autumn, John Leeper made up a lot of ground from the back to score by four lengths at Newcastle. Hollie Doyle, who rode him, told reporters: "He's pretty special, I think".
"He came out of the race very well," Dunlop said. "He did his first canter this morning, not a bother, you wouldn't think he'd had a race. So, onwards and upwards.
"I was very chuffed to see him win so well and for my owner, Mrs Patino, who named him so bravely after my father, who she had horses with for a long time. I said to her after the race, 'Thank goodness you've given this name to a good horse'. She said, 'I have been doing this for a long time ...'
"She's always had great belief in the horse and she was very nervous before he ran. Many people have sent nice messages about him and his name, so there is some pressure on the horse but let's hope he can live up to it."
There was still some 100-1 available about John Leeper's Cazoo Derby chance on Monday morning but BetVictor wiped that off and went 25-1 before 8am. Several other firms shortened him to 20-1 soon after.
"There's not a great deal of time between now and Epsom," Dunlop continued, "and he is naturally a very inexperienced horse. But we are considering it. We're considering the Dante and we're considering the option of going straight to the Derby, or he's in the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot.
"Physically, he's beautiful: big, strong, well-bred, good temperament. He's a fine, imposing horse. He should stay well, he should stay a mile and a half with that pedigree and he is hopefully going to be a very exciting horse this season."
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