THE poignancy will be palpable if trainer Ed Dunlop wins the Cazoo Derby this weekend with John Leeper – the horse named after his late father John.
The Newmarket trainer sends the exciting colt to Epsom 27 years after his legendary father saddled his second Derby win when Erhaab prevailed in scintillating style under Willie Carson.
And Dunlop admitted he does feel a small, extra weight of pressure on his shoulders after owner Cristina Patino chose such a special name for her horse who will be ridden in the Derby – part of the Qipco British Champions Series – by Adam Kirby.
In a wide open renewal of the celebrated Classic, John Leeper was an impressive winner at Newcastle before galloping into Derby contention when landing the Fairway Stakes, a Listed contest, at Newmarket last month,.
“My father won the Derby twice and was Champion Trainer, to train a horse after his name of course it puts some pressure on,” reflected Dunlop. “The horse has no idea it’s his name probably, he’s nick-named Johnny in the yard. So there is a bit more pressure, but good pressure.
“One dreams as a trainer to train a Classic winner in England and none more than the Derby coming up. The best we’ve done is finish fifth and it would be truly great if we could do better than that.”
Dunlop won the Oaks in 2010 with Snow Fairy, the dam of John Leeper. She was also owned by Mrs Patino and carried the same yellow and red colours.
The trainer believes his father would have been “quite amused” with the horse’s success. “The owner Mrs Patino deserves an enormous mention. If it wasn’t for her, the horse wouldn’t be here,” added Dunlop. “She had horses with my father (John) for many, many years and kindly sent me a horse or two, of which relatively early on one of them was Snow Fairy.
“Sadly, my father died and this colt was born. She asked permission to name it after my father which I think he would have been very honoured, probably very embarrassed and quite amused now. It’s a lovely story.”
Meanwhile jockey Martin Dwyer believes Pyledriver can make amends for last year’s frustrating run in the Derby by landing the Coral Coronation Cup at Epsom on Friday.
With Pyledriver finding only Sir Ron Priestley too strong on his return at Newmarket last month, Dwyer is confident that his horse can take the Group One.
“He looked like a teenager then (last year) but he looks like a man now, so fingers crossed we are going to have a good year for him,” said Dwyer.
However Noon Star has been ruled out of the Cazoo Oaks because of a blood disorder. Sir Michael Stoute’s charge was a leading contender for the fillies’ Classic after winning two of her four starts and finishing second in the Musidora Stakes at York.
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