It is all systems go for Dragon Leap's New Zealand Derby campaign. The one-time Derby favourite was replaced at the head of the market by Two Illicit on Saturday after that filly stunningly won the Waikato Guineas that Dragon Leap was forced to miss.
The glamour gelding woke up with a high temperature on Saturday morning, raising concerns if he didn't improve quickly that could jeopardise a start in Saturday's Avondale Guineas at Ellerslie and leave him too short of racing to contest the $1 million Vodafone Derby at Ellerslie on February 29.
But co-trainer Andrew Scott says a major obstacle to that campaign was hurdled yesterday.
"We got his blood tests back and they are fine," says Scott, who trains the son of Pierro with Lance O'Sullivan. "So as far as we're concerned, it is all systems go for the Guineas this Saturday."
Scott says Dragon Leap will have a gallop at Matamata this morning to hone his fitness for Saturday but he doesn't believe missing last Saturday's race will greatly affect him at Ellerslie this week.
"He is a horse who doesn't take too much work, so we think we can get him there in good shape."
If that's the case, then Dragon Leap will get the chance to wrest Derby favouritism back from Two Illicit, although the way the filly distanced her rivals by seven-and-a-half lengths at Te Rapa, Dragon Leap is going to need to be right at the top of his game to be the Derby favourite come Sunday morning.
Opie Bosson will be the new rider for the Avondale Guineas after Jason Waddell, who was to have ridden Dragon Leap in the Waikato Guineas, had already committed to Scorpz for this week. But Bosson is extremely unlikely to be riding at Ellerslie on Derby day, so Dragon Leap's jockey for the classic won't be known until at least next week.
Those who have backed him into $2.60 for the Derby, which bounced out to $3.20 after Saturday, won't be too worried about who rides just yet, they will simply be breathing a sigh of relief he is back on track. His setback means it will be over six weeks between runs since he beat Riodini in the Auckland Guineas at Ellerslie on January 1.
While Dragon Leap looks increasingly likely to make it to Derby and Cup week, the O'Sullivan-Scott team will be without their regular staying star, with Charles Road having a setback after the Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie in December and now not in contention for the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup on March 7.
"He needed a break after that, so we are going to aim him at Queensland carnival in the winter," said O'Sullivan.
But their last-start Telegraph placegetter Spring Heat will be at Ellerslie, being aimed at the $100,000 Haunui Farm King's Plate, a $100,000 Group3 over 1200m on February 29.