Dawn Approach hardened as Derby favourite after 33-1 shot Libertarian won the Dante Stakes at York yesterday.
Middleham-based couple Elaine and Karl Burke became the first trainers from Yorkshire to win the Knavesmire’s important Classic trial since Snowy Gray’s Ballymarais 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.”
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.”
Asked for his view on the fortnight of Derby trials, he said cryptically: “I think the only trials that matter are the ones at Coolcullen (his stable). We’re ecstatic with them.”
Coolmore’s UK representative Kevin Buckley said of Indian Chief: “Joseph was happy enough with him and he’s probably still a bit inexperienced.”
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