First they got the performance they wanted, then they got the jockey they wanted.

Which leaves the trainers of Dragon Leap happy men leading into the $1 million Vodafone Derby at Ellerslie in 12 days.

The outstanding 3-year-old went into Saturday's Avondale Guineas with a few doubts hanging over his Derby preparation.

The first was the tiny concern over missing his preferred lead-up in the Waikato Guineas last week after an early-morning temperature, with a detour on the road to a classic hardly ideal.


Trainers Andrew Scott and Lance O'Sullivan were confident Dragon Leap had bounced back from that and would show his best on Saturday. They were right.

After sliding away from the rail when crossed early the A$1.05 million ($1.09m) yearling purchase relaxed beautifully in midfield for Opie Bosson and cruised to the lead at the 200m mark, winning like the very good galloper we all thought he was.

He could have gone much faster than his 33.5 seconds for the last 600m but the ability to run that sort of sectional at the end of an admittedly sedate 2100m suggest Dragon Leap is the star male of this Derby.

He will still have to beat a stunningly good filly in Two Illicit but after the last two weekends of staying Guineas races it is nearly impossible to make a case for something to beat them both in the Derby.

But horses need jockeys and Bosson will be in Sydney on Derby Day riding Te Akau Shark and Probabeel and he was mainly on Dragon Leap on Saturday as a fill-in, after Jason Waddell had been on him for the Waikato Guineas he missed, but was committed to Scorpz on Saturday.

Ironically he missed that ride after picking up a bug from one of his kids on Friday and having to miss the entire Ellerslie meeting.

So the Dragon Leap ride was Waddell's all along and with Bosson not even available as the back-up option O'Sullivan, one of our greatest riders, knew that Waddell was the final piece to the Derby puzzle.

He is having a career-best season at the black type level but also had the option to ride Scorpz, who was a brave second to Dragon Leap on Saturday, in the Derby.


Waddell weighed up the almost certain chance to ride Scorpz deeper into the season, including in Sydney, against the fact the ride on Dragon Leap is a one-off commitment for the Derby, albeit with the promise of more to come if he gets the job done at Ellerslie.

But after mulling it over on Saturday night Waddell committed to Dragon Leap yesterday.

"We are thrilled to have him," says O'Sullivan. "Jason is a great tactical rider and very good at getting horses to relax. And he knows all the local horses and the form and the track. He is the jockey we wanted."

While there is plenty to like about Scorpz, Sherwood Forest, Saturday's last-race winner Vladivostok and others, most punters will toss up between Dragon Leap and Two Illicit come Derby time.

Waddell a man riding in the best form of his life against the King of the Derby in Vinnie Colgan.

That is why they call them classics.

Vodafone Derby market
Ellerslie, February 29

$2.20: Dragon Leap
$2.40: Two Illicit
$11: Reggiewood, Scorpz, Sherwood Forest
$18: Tibetan
$26: Vladivostok
$61 or more: The rest