Wexford 3YO leaps into Derby contention

Dragon Leap
Dragon Leap makes it win number three for James McDonald as he takes out the Group 2 Jamieson Park Auckland Guineas (1600m) Photo Credit: Trish Dunell

Talented three-year-old Dragon Leap stamped his Derby credentials with his winning effort in the Group 2 Jamieson Park Auckland Guineas (1600m) at Ellerslie on Wednesday. It was the second win and first stakes victory for the Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott-trained gelding who more than made up for his last-start indiscretion when costing himself the win in the Listed Trevor Eagle Memorial 3YO (1500m) when racing greenly in the closing stages of the race.

With the addition of blinkers, Dragon Leap was a lot more settled on Wednesday, sitting midfield for jockey James McDonald for the majority of the race before running on late to get the better of race favourite Riodini by a long neck, with 2-1/2 lengths back to Star Of Bombay in third.

“At least he didn’t make a fool of himself this time,” jockey James McDonald quipped. “It’s well-documented he should probably be unbeaten, but he is just going to keep getting better and better as the preparation goes on.” “If you didn’t know he was as good as what he is you would say he is very green and he is probably six months away, but he is a pretty cool horse. “He gave me a really sweet ride. With the blinkers on for the first time he was a little bit fired up the first furlong and a half, but then he got into a lovely rhythm from there.”

Despite his immaturity, McDonald has a high opinion of the gelding and believes he is a serious contender for next month’s Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie. “He will run 2000m on his ear and he will be a lovely Derby ride for someone,” he said.

O’Sullivan was rapt with the win and the former champion jockey was full of praise for visiting Sydney hoop McDonald. “When you have got great owners who outlay a lot of money to buy a nice horse and to come out and do that is a great thrill for Andrew, myself, and all the team at Wexford,” he said. “We saw a talented horse and an extremely talented jockey. We have all watched James ride over the carnival and he is probably the greatest jockey that New Zealand has ever produced.”

O’Sullivan is excited to have a leading Derby prospect heading into next month, but said they are yet to finalise his lead-up runs into the race. “He is one of those horses that is slow maturing and there is no doubt in the autumn he is going to be a far better horse,” he said.

“We looked at the Levin Classic (Group 1, 1600m) but we decided against it because we thought he just didn’t need a trip away, so that’s not on the radar. How we get to the Derby we will just have to work it out. “I certainly wouldn’t swap him with any other, but it is just great to be going into our main three-year-old race with a horse that has the capability of running in it and having a chance.”