Quality galloper Dragon Leap showed he was right on track for his upcoming spring stakes assignments with a slashing run for second at Ruakaka on Saturday.
The six-year-old son of Pierro hadn't been seen on raceday since finishing fourth in the Group 3 Concorde Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie back in January with just a quiet trial over 950m at Cambridge last month to fit him for his campaign opener.
Ridden patiently at the rear of the 11-horse field in the Kerikeri Cup (1100m), Dragon Leap was a clear last on the point of the home turn before launching a determined finish closer to the rail for rider Craig Grylls that saw him get within a short neck of multiple Group One winner Imperatriz at the winning post.
Trainer Lance O'Sullivan, who prepares the horse in partnership with Andrew Scott for owners Hermitage Thoroughbreds, was delighted to see his charge perform up to his expectations.
“He is a proper horse and I was confident he would be right in the firing line based on how he has come up for this preparation,” O'Sullivan said.
“He may be a six-year-old now but there is still plenty of life left in his legs as he has only had ten starts due to a few niggles with his feet.
“His feet are just fine now and that race was perfect for him to kick off in as the track had the fire out of it, but he wasn't going to have a gut buster on a very heavy surface.
“I think the best part of his race was the closing sectional and he ran right through the line which is also a very good sign.
“He came home and ate up well and he appears to a pretty happy horse this morning (Sunday).”
“He pulled up perfectly sound on Saturday which gives us confidence to press on with that schedule although it is not set in concrete as he will tell us how he is going as we build into each race.
“He looks well suited to that Hastings carnival and that's where the focus is for the time being.
“There is always an option to try something in Australia later on if he is going as well as we know he can, but we're not trying to get ahead of ourselves after just one run in this campaign.
“He is such a lovely horse with a wonderful temperament, so it is a great feeling to have him back as sound and keen as he is.”
The Group 2 Waikato Stud Foxbridge Plate (1200m) will be held at Te Rapa on Saturday August 27 with the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) run at Hastings a fortnight later.