You wouldn't mistake him for a horse with the ability to rival the likes of Black Caviar or Frankel but what he does have is unparalleled determination and a adoration for Newmarket. Winning his maiden there as a longshot in 2010, he has since returned for three further successes over the Newmarket July Course including a double in the Criterion Stakes over seven furlongs, but what his win form doesn't show you is the near misses in his resume including a close fourth in last year's renewal of the July Cup. This year he returns to his favourite track, in form and ready to fire on the greatest stage yet again - Ladies and Gentleman, I introduce to you....LIBRANNO.
Sold for the small sum of 26,000 guineas at the Tattersalls Yearling Sale in 2009, Libranno found himself in the care of the trainer that every two year old would thrive to be in the hands of - Richard Hannon. In 2011 alone, Richard Hannon found himself with an end tally of 736 starts by his army of two year olds culminating in 126 victories. Hannon's ability doesn't stop there; Victories at the highest level in their elder years by Canford Cliffs, Dick Turpin and Paco Boy just continue to show Hannon's ability and contributed to him being named Champion Trainer in 2010 and 2011 but with all three of those moving on to stud duties it is the likes of Strong Suit and Libranno that now fly the flag for the Hannon stable on the biggest stage.
Libranno is an interesting horse to watch; His determination towards the front end of a race is admirable and when thrown into a challenge by his jockey he never fails to knuckle down and produce his very best. Prior to the 2011 July Cup, Libranno was the kind of horse you could rely on in the Group 3 and Listed races to produce a winning display against rivals who would never quite improve to better things. However, things changed on 9th July 2011. Just a matter of weeks after a Group 3 victory over his stablemate Pausanias in the Criterion Stakes at Newmarket, Libranno was thrown into the July Cup by Hannon without a familiar jockey on his back due to the hectic British racing schedule of that weekend. With normal jockeys Ricard Hughes and Ryan Moore at Newbury and York respectively, it was Seb Sanders who was given the task of partnering Libranno to his greatest performance yet. Breaking out of the gates quicker than Usain Bolt in Olympic blocks, Libranno led his rivals a merry dance for five furlongs in the Group 1 July Cup before being collared late on within the final furlong by the likes of Dream Ahead and Bated Breath. Whilst the headlines will read that Dream Ahead's victory had produced the first victory for a female jockey in England for fourteen years, the headlines won't note the significant improvement shown by 'bargain buy' Libranno on his first step back up into Group 1 company since the Prix Morny of 2010.
Ironically, in 2010 Libranno went off as the heavily backed favourite in the Prix Morny - France's premier two year old race - only to be beaten by an improving Dream Ahead under William Buick. His old rival may have got the better of his again in the July Cup but that won't be the case this year. With Dream Ahead retired, Libranno comes into the 2012 renewal of the July Cup with a further victory in the Criterion Stakes to his name and the belief that he can win a Group 1 before the year is over. Hannon has lined up ambitious targets for his son of Librettist with the belief that he can continue to build on his ability and consistent performances at HQ. The July Cup my be the immediate target but the chance for further glory in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest is firmly on the agenda as is the bid for victory for the third year in a row at Goodwood, this time in the Lennox Stakes over seven furlongs, and a valuable race in Turkey. Back home, the Haydock Sprint Cup must also be on the agenda over six furlongs but his preference for Newmarket must surely suggest he has his greatest chance yet of gaining Group 1 glory in the July Cup in just a few days time.
Make no mistake, Libranno may not be on your radar at the moment but before the year is out he may be one you rate alongside the likes of Bated Breath and the majority of the very best sprinters England has to offer. Why not take a look at Libranno for yourself and give him the rating you think he deserves on the International Top 500 rankings here...
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)