Smart three-year-old Dragon Leap will contest Saturday’s Group 2 Jamieson Park Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie after overcoming a minor hiccup which prevented him from running in last weekend’s Group 2 Waikato Guineas (2000m).
This time last week the lightly-tried son of Pierro was the ruling favourite for the Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) on February 29, but a high-temperature forced the scratching of the Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott-trained three-year-old from the Waikato Guineas.
The subsequent dominant display by Two Illicit saw that filly usurp Dragon Leap at the head of Derby betting, rated a $2.60 chance ahead of her male rivals at $3.20. “He appears to be fine,” O’Sullivan said. “We had some bloods taken and it came back showing no ill-effects so we have been given the all-clear to continue as per normal. “He looks bright, he’s eating and he looks back to normal.”
O’Sullivan said so long as Dragon Leap was finding the line well at the end of 2100m at Ellerslie this weekend, he would be happy going forward to the Derby. “You want to see him run well and finishing on towards the end of it,” he said. “I suppose nobody really knows until they run 2400m whether they get the distance, but he has got a touch of class that is going to take him a fair way.”
O’Sullivan had been keen to run last weekend in order to provide a three-week gap to the Derby, but he said the change in plans wouldn’t be a great hinderance. “He’s a big immature type of horse and we haven’t got that luxury now, the extra week going into the Derby, but I don’t think it’ll make too much of a difference. “If there is a bonus in it, we do get to look at Ellerslie on one more occasion before the big one and that’s got to help in some way. “It is what it is, we have to make do with what we have ahead of us.”
Opie Bosson is booked to ride this weekend, but the ace hoop will be in Sydney on New Zealand Derby Day to ride Te Akau Shark and Probabeel in their respective Group 1 assignments, opening the door for Jason Waddell to land the plumb ride on Dragon Leap. “He has been offered the ride,” O’Sullivan said. “Jason has a prior commitment this week (riding Scorpz) and it just depends if Dragon Leap runs well-enough for him to want to ride him.”
The New Zealand Derby is likely to be the last run in New Zealand for Dragon Leap, who could contest the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) but long-term is earmarked to join O’Sullivan’s brother Paul in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, O’Sullivan and Scott have a familiar face back in the stable with the recently gelded Summer Passage making a return to his old stomping ground after failing to get mares in foal at stud. The son of Snitzel won the Group 1 Diamond Stakes (1200m) as a two-year-old for O’Sullivan and Scott before running second to Invader in the Group 1 Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) in Sydney.
The Hermitage Thoroughbreds-owned galloper ventured to Hong Kong where he had five starts but failed to show his best. “He looks well and he is very happy,” O’Sullivan said. “He hasn’t done a lot of racing and is very sound in his action. He is moving very fluently compared to what he used to be like and his attitude is very positive. “With the time of the year that he is in, we have sort of missed everything, but we will give him a barrier trial and see where he is at and if he goes well enough we will find a race for him.”
O’Sullivan also reported that Charles Road would not be a starter in the Group 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) after having a bone chip removed from a fetlock.