He would not have the class, surely, or the speed. He isn't even the right shape. But the sudden squall of hail prompted by his success here suggested that Libertarian, if nothing else, will introduce due grit to the British Turf's greatest race. For his shock success in the trial that honours the North's last winner – now 68 years ago – plainly qualified this big, dour brute as a fitting ambassador for Yorkshire in the Investec Derby a fortnight tomorrow.
His performance in the Betfred Dante Stakes was hewn from a physique that already makes a serious issue of Tattenham Corner, even if you disregard his struggle for early rhythm over the wide open spaces of the Knavesmire. But Libertarian certainly deserves to take his chance for a yard that has succeeded where so many with deeper resources have failed, namely in producing a colt capable of holding off the Irish even in a trial.
As more fancied rivals fanned alongside each other in the long straight, seemingly in a collective quest for mediocrity, the 33-1 outsider gradually worked his way through the gears for William Buick until hitting the front a furlong out and grinding a little over a length clear of Trading Leather, with Indian Chief close up in third. So it was that Elaine Burke of Leyburn was able to relegate both the trainers who dominate the Derby picture, Jim Bolger and Aidan O'Brien, to lower tiers of the podium. In offering Libertarian at 25-1, from 100-1, Coral did not anticipate her doing the same at Epsom.
Together with her spouse and assistant, Karl, Elaine nonetheless warrants credit for persevering here with a colt who had beaten three rivals for a Pontefract maiden only last month, before being well beaten at Sandown.
"Sandown was a nonsense of a race for him," Karl explained. "Unfortunately Phil [Makin] got stuck outside a horse that was hanging badly and he drifted out. He's such a green horse, big and backward, which is why we came back today – to give him more experience. Not having had many Derby horses, or Dante horses even, you are tilting at windmills at bit. So it's a great day for the yard, and everyone connected with the horse."
Even so, Bolger can seldom have been so gratified to finish second. The only thing the winner truly has in common with his unbeaten Derby favourite is their sire, New Approach. Ladbrokes now offer Dawn Approach at even money, from 5-4. Asked for his view of the trials, Bolger dryly avowed that the only ones that mattered had been run back home at Coolcullen.
Secret Number did nothing to salvage Godolphin from its present nightmare, toiling into sixth of eight, but at least fared better than Greatwood, who was never travelling. If one Highclere syndicate may now have to forget about the Derby, another clings to hope as Telescope responds to treatment for the setback that prevented him coming here. He is likely to test the water in a racecourse gallop next week.
Chris McGrath's Nap
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