Libertarian shock leaves Bolger smiling brightly
YORK'S Dante Stakes might have been won by a locally-trained horse for the first time in nearly 50 years, but it was Jim Bolger who was wearing the biggest smile after the last of the recognised Derby trials.
Libertarian, a 33/1 outsider, became the first Yorkshire-trained winner of the feature in 48 years and, in the process, appeared to cast more dark clouds over the home defence for the Epsom Classic on June 1.
Bolger, who saddled runner-up Trading Leather, was smiling as broadly as he dared in the circumstances – safe in the knowledge that his short-priced favourite Dawn Approach remains the one everybody else has to worry about. Four Derby trials last week were won by colts trained by Aidan O'Brien, but this one went the way of a lightly-raced type sent out by Elaine Burke, based at nearby Leyburn.
Bolger, however, had not been overwhelmed by the 'trial' performances he had digested. "The only trials that matter were run in Coolcullen," he quipped in reference to his own yard in Carlow. And, asked for his reaction to those home gallops, he replied: "I'm ecstatic."
Bookmakers had formed a similar view, with Ladbrokes and William Hill shortening up the 2,000 Guineas winner to even-money (from 5/4) and Paddy Power introducing Libertarian to the Derby market, at 25/1.
Bolger also had a second reason to be pleased with the result, as the victor is a son of New Approach, the Derby winner that he had trained in 2007-'08.
Libertarian lacked experience – this was only his third outing – but fought on admirably, getting home by just over a length. Jockey William Buick informed connections that he wanted to keep the mount. Karl Burke, speaking for his wife Elaine, the licence holder, said: "We took him to Southwell for one piece of work. He's so inexperienced, but we thought he was special, and I asked Hubert (Strecker, the owner), 'do you fancy entering him in the Derby?'.
"We knew that even if he was in trouble, he'd pick up from two out. My form man told me that when he won his maiden at Pontefrect, he ran the quickest last two furlongs of any horse that day, including the sprinters.
"Then, at Sandown (on his next start), he got carried wide by a horse that was hanging. He was beaten eight lengths, but he could have finished a lot closer."
Trading Leather has been a good solid yardstick, and Bolger is eyeing the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on June 2, followed by the Irish Derby at the Curragh on June 29. Of course, if anything untoward occurred to the favourite plans would be revised.
The trainer said that he was expecting improvement from Trading Leather, especially if the ground started drying up. "He hates soft ground and I didn't want to work him on soft turf. I got him as fit as I could get him at home."
The O'Brien-trained Indian Chief finished third, three-quarters of a length behind the second. After being ridden from behind, he made up ground in the home straight.
He had his chance, as did Windhoek (fifth), Secret Number (sixth) and Greatwood (seventh).
Meanwhile, Tony McCoy made the perfect return to action after injury as 1/2 favourite Church Field defied a penalty in the novices' handicap hurdle at Ludlow. Back in the saddle four weeks after suffering broken ribs in a crashing fall at Cheltenham, McCoy looked relaxed and settled his mount just off the pace set by Duneen Dream before taking closer order down the far side.
Going to three out, he was joined by the strong-travelling Eightfold, but McCoy and Church Field gained the upper hand and came home with five lengths to spare. (© Daily Telegraph, London)