Anyone who thought that Dragon Leap might be below his best at Ellerslie on Saturday had those doubts well and truly extinguished when the exciting staying talent bolted away with the Gr.2 Jamieson Park Avondale Guineas (2100m).
The Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott-trained Pierro gelding had missed his preferred Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) lead in run when an elevated temperature on race morning saw him scratched from the Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) last weekend.
Plan B for his Matamata conditioners became Saturday’s three-year-old feature where some detractors believed the hiccup in his preparation could see him vulnerable against a line-up that included two of his main Derby rivals in Sherwood Forest and Scorpz.
Dragon Leap answered those critics in emphatic fashion as he dashed away from the other well-favoured pair in the run home after enjoying a perfect trip in transit courtesy of rider Opie Bosson.
Bosson had his mount situated nicely in mid-field before issuing his challenge shortly after entering the home straight. Just as Scorpz and Sherwood Forest set down to fight out the finish, Dragon Leap swept past them both before cruising to the line a length and threequarters to the good of Scorpz who shaded Sherwood Forest for second.
“It was a great ride from Opie and quite a soft win so it’s a great result,” O’Sullivan said.
“There was a little bit of a question mark but Andrew and I looked at him before the race and he really lined up looking fit and healthy.
“It was just good to see him put it all together.
“One of his main attributes is his temperament and the way he behaves, as big occasions just aren’t going to worry him.”
O’Sullivan is looking forward to the New Zealand Derby in a fortnight and has no qualms about his charge seeing out the 2400m distance of the race.
“Genetics suggest he will (get the distance), but you never know until you try however, I’m pretty confident that he will,” he said.
TAB Bookmakers reacted quickly to the win as they tightened him to a $2.20 favourite for the New Zealand Derby in their Fixed Odds market, ahead of Two Illicit at $2.40.
Bosson was also taken with the manner of the victory in his first ride aboard the long-striding youngster.
“He just relaxed beautifully throughout the race and did everything perfectly,” he said.
“I always had a lapful of horse and with the turn of foot he showed I had them covered from about the 1200m.
“It was very impressive and it won’t be a problem for him (the distance) in the Derby.”