John Leeper Profile

Name John Leeper
Born Apr 28, 2018
Age 3 years

John Leeper is named after trainer Ed Dunlop’s late father and was his first runner at the Epsom Derby for five years.

The horse represented Dunlop's best chance of an Epsom Derby winner for 11 years as he was rated fourth favourite at 8/1 for the prestigious mile-and-a-half race. John Leeper was also claimed by the legendary Frankie Dettori, but he disappointed on the turf surface and failed to give the Italian his third Derby crown.

He finished over 20 lengths behind the winner Adayar and particularly struggled towards the end of the race.

John Leeper's impressive beginnings

In his maiden outing on September 11, 2020, John Leeper raced in the Gary Reid Memorial Maiden Stakes at Doncaster. Priced at 8/1, he ran an eye-catching race but ultimately did not have the stamina and was beaten by three-and-a-quarter lengths by Tawaareq, finishing in fourth place.

In his first race of 2021 on April 30, John Leeper was ridden by Hollie Doyle and took his maiden victory in the QuinnBet Novice Stakes at Newcastle.

At the start of the race, he found himself towards the back of the field but he came through strongly to lead the race in the final furlong and win it by four lengths. Priced as a 9/4 joint favourite, it was a triumphant step up to a distance of one mile and two furlongs.

Just over two weeks later on May 15, John Leeper made it back-to-back victories over the same distance by winning the Betway Fairway Stakes at Newmarket.

Priced at 6/4, he beat Tasman Bay by one-and-three-quarter lengths under the stewardship of jockey William Buick, who had ridden John Leeper on his debut. He did pull hard in that race though, which was slowly run, giving rise to question marks ahead of the Derby.

With so much personal meaning behind the horse though, the race was still special for Dunlop and his family. However, there is no denying that the questions raised remain unanswered following the comprehensive nature of his defeat.

Ed Dunlop, Adam Kirby and John Leeper's connections

Ed Dunlop is a British Thoroughbred horse trainer who owns La Grange Stables. He has over 25 Group or Grade 1 wins across eight countries and will be looking to add a first Epsom Derby to that list.

His first victory came in the late 1990s and he has since guided over 1,000 domestic winners, as well as enjoying significant international success. His most famous horses include Ouija Board, Red Cadeaux and Snow Fairy.

John Leeper is owned by Anamoine Limited, who are based in Ireland. The company has a history of owning successful horses including the famous Snow Fairy, winner of both the 2010 Epsom Oaks and Irish Oaks, among other top races.

Jockey Adam Kirby had been booked to ride John Leeper in the Epsom Derby, coming full circle as Kirby rode John Leeper's dam Snow Fairy in her juvenile season in 2009. However, on the Wednesday before the race, he was replaced by Frankie Dettori in the saddle. Kirby went on to guide the winner, Adayar, to success in the Derby.

Adam Kirby and Saffron Beach in action at Newmarket

John Leeper's pedigree

John Leeper was sired by the legendary Frankel, while his dam is Snow Fairy.

Frankel is a retired champion British Thoroughbred horse who was unbeaten in his 14-race career, becoming the highest-rated racehorse in the world in May 2011. Frankel retired after winning the Champion Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2012. Frankel's other key successes include winning the 2010 Dewhurst Stakes, the 2011 2,000 Guineas, the 2011 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the 2012 Lockinge Stakes.

Snow Fairy is a retired Thoroughbred racehorse who won only one race out of six as a two-year-old. However, she got better with age, winning both the Epsom Oaks and Irish Oaks in her three-year-old season, as well as finishing second in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks.

She also enjoyed success in Hong Kong and Japan, winning the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup over two successive years. She also won the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes in her last race.

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