Ground key to autumn plans for Dragon Leader

Connections of Dragon Leader were left feeling proud of his valiant second in the Weatherbys Scientific £300,000 2-Y-O Stakes at Doncaster last week.

Trained by Clive Cox, the son of El Kabeir headed to the St Leger meeting with an unbeaten record and lofty reputation to maintain having scooped a valuable prize at York’s Ebor meeting last month.

Encountering soft ground for the first time, Dragon Leader failed to pick up with his usual zest and had to battle for a place on the podium as Kevin Ryan’s Room Service took home the spoils.

However, despite tasting defeat for the first time, he added just over £59,000 to the £147,540 he collected on the Knavesmire and Sam Hoskins, racing manager for owner Kennett Valley Thoroughbreds, is confident there are more big days to come.

He said: “We were really proud of him. The ground was all wrong but we kind of had to run off that weight.

“It wasn’t for him and he didn’t enjoy it, but he was so game at the end getting up for second, which meant a lot for the syndicate because the prize-money is huge. He earnt more there than the Mill Reef winner will win on Saturday.

“He’s really game and he does want the quicker ground and he just couldn’t quicken off that ground at Doncaster. However, it was still a really good run and there’s plenty to look forward to in the future.”

The future could include another venture north for Redcar’s William Hill Two Year Old Trophy on October 7.

The Listed event, where Dragon Leader would again carry a featherweight, appears the preferred option. But with the potential for soft appearing in the going description, connections will bide their time before confirming their next move.

“We’ll have to see how he is and Clive says he’s fine, but he had his first hard race last week,” continued Hoskins.

“The Redcar race would make a lot of sense for him because he would have a low weight in that as well, but again the ground would be a major question mark potentially. If it came up soft, I’m not sure we will go again in the ground.

“There is also a very valuable race up at York (British EBF £100,000 Final, October 13) and other Pattern races, but the horse will tell Clive if he’s ready and then Clive will tell us!

“If he doesn’t run again this season he owes us nothing, but if the ground came up dry at Redcar, that race would make a lot of sense.”

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