Win, lose or draw in the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap at York on Saturday, Ed Dunlop has confirmed that the Derby’s only hope, John Leeper, will be back racing next season.
The four-year-old won two of his first three career starts and had an 8/1 shot at last year’s Epsom Classic but finished behind Adayar.
While he failed to win in nine subsequent starts, the Newmarket manager has not lost faith in this son of Frankel, who is named after his late father, Classic-winning trainer John Leeper Dunlop.
Although he admits it has been “frustrating”, Dunlop insists his run behind later Group One scorer Rebel’s Romance in the mile-and-a-half Queen’s Plate at Goodwood was ideal preparation for Europe’s richest handicapper.
John Leeperto be ridden by Adam Kirby, will carry the 9th 9-pounder in a race in which three of the last four winners have claimed victory over 9th 5-pounders.
Dunlop said: “Goodwood was very much a warm-up race. It was an inadequate ride and they were slow and fast. He’s a huge horse and we wanted to give him a run in preparation for the Ebor.”
“All systems have pointed this out for a while. It’s a bit frustrating, but he’s still very talented and in great shape, and we’re pleased with his latest work.”
“Knock on wood, he’ll do well, but he’s very competitive and there are a lot of riders. We need some luck. The plan is for him to ride next year though.”
Three of the top five on the market come from Ireland, with Paddy Twomey’s Earl of Tyrone topping most of the charts after a clear victory in an extended mile-and-a-half race at Limerick. That form was broken when the runner-up scored in a Group Three the next time around.
The trained Joseph O’Brien Okita Sushiwho was third in the Copper Horse Stakes at Royal Ascot, is another top contender despite a deep tie for 22nd, along with Jessica Harrington. always presentwhich has a more favorable position in six.
The six-year-old made a good impression when he picked up a valuable big course handicap at Leopardstown in September and when he returned after 314 days on the sidelines in defeat at Down Royal last month.
Harrington said: “This race has been the plan for a long time and we hope it goes according to plan. We were happy enough with his comeback run at Down Royal. He is in good form and that race will have removed any cobwebs.” .”
The home challenge is led by William Haggas’ partner Gaassee Y Chandelier. The former attempts the trip for the first time, while Tom Marquand sticks with the latter, which he scored on the Duke of Edinburgh at the Royal meeting.
Frankie Dettori Joins the Team of John and Thady Gosden trawler in Godolphin blue. The addition of a hood helped him gain a similar distance at Goodwood and although he retains the helmet, the connections are aware of an awkward draw.
Thady Gosden said: “He ran at Goodwood with the bonnet on last time and got a good ride from Benoit (De La Sayette). He won well enough. His two starts between that and his win at the start of the year made him not going from all as planned and he is a horse that obviously stays on the trip he just over-traveled a bit hence the hood which helped calm him down.
“It’s been good ever since and obviously we’ve got 20 in the draw, which isn’t ideal. But you can only play the hand you’re dealt and we’ll come up with a plan.”
Jim Goldie heads to Knavesmire confident with euchen glen, which is docked at post two. Paul Mulrennan rides the hard shots handicap, which he is aiming to become the first nine-year-old to land the award since Sea Pigeon in 1979.
Goldie said: “He’s been a consistent horse. I expect him to be very consistent on Saturday. It’s an interesting race with a lot of interesting horses. He’s been in really good shape and it’s a track he’s performed well on.” before, so we’re hopeful.”
Richard Hughes may never have won the race as a jockey, but he would be sure to pocket the prize as a trainer, should there be a lot of rain in York before now and at 3.35pm on Saturday. he saddles calling the windwho was placed in both the Cesarewitch and November Handicap last year and was a fair third behind Coltrane in the Esher Stakes at Sandown in his previous race.
“You better do a rain dance, I need rain,” Hughes said. “I really do. If we get it, we’ll go, but if we don’t, we probably won’t race. But he’s in great shape and if he gets weak, he’d have a big chance. He’s good to steady, I’m not going to race.”