Middleham-based couple Elaine and Karl Burke became the first trainers from the county to win the Knavesmire’s important Classic trial since Snowy Gray’s Lucky Brief back in 1962. While Libertarian did not make much of an impact in the Investec Derby market, the man allowed to smile widely was Jim Bolger, who saddled Trading Leather for second but now sees his unbeaten 2000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach as short as even-money favourite with many bookmakers.
Libertarian has always been held in high regard and showed rich promise when landing a maiden on his debut at Pontefract last month, but he would have been largely ignored due to finishing only fourth in the Sandown Classic Trial, when admittedly unlucky.
Dashing Star cut out the running with Trading Leather on his tail but the race, which has seen nine winners progress to Epsom glory, was still to develop in earnest by the two-furlong pole.
With Aidan O’Brien pocketing every Derby warm-up of the last fortnight, Indian Chief was the 11-4 favourite, but the trainer’s son Joseph did not receive an immediate response when he had found some space and was passed by Libertarian and William Buick on his inside.
Buick had been one of the first to start pushing but his mount ended up forging a length and a quarter clear of the plucky Trading Leather, with Indian Chief three-quarters of a length further back in third.
“It is a great win for the yard and everyone connected with the horse,” said Karl Burke. “I didn’t think he should be 33-1 – I did get some 50s on Wednesday! He’s a proper horse and having not had many (Derby) horses, or Dante horses even, you are tilting at windmills at bit.
“You can see he’s still running green, and that will be a major problem in the Derby if he goes there, which he probably will. The way the Derby is run, he’ll need to be on his mettle, but he’ll stay.” Buick had replaced Phil Makin, who had not enjoyed his finest moment at Sandown, and Burke said: “Unfortunately Phil got stuck on the outside of a horse that was hanging badly and he drifted out.
“He’s such a green horse which is why we came back today to give him more racecourse experience. It was only in March time that he really began to pick up in his work and he’s done nothing but improve since then.”
While Libertarian can be backed at 25-1 with Coral, the best available price on Dawn Approach is Paddy Power and Boylesports’ 5-4. Of Trading Leather, Bolger said: “I couldn’t be happier with him.
“Kevin [Manning] was happy at all times and was also happy he would get a mile and a half. We expect him to come on for the run, but he was as fit as I could get him at home.
“He wouldn’t run at Epsom unless something happened to Dawn Approach. There are plenty of options for him and the year is long. He and Loch Garman could either go for the Irish Guineas or the French Derby. Later on there’s the Irish Derby, but that might be open to Dawn Approach as well.”