A race which harboured the hopes of many lofty reputations, the Group 2 Dante Stakes provided the ultimate shock as William Buick enhanced his own ever-growing reputation by urging 33-1 long-shot Libertarian to victory in the key Epsom Derby trial.
Trained by Elaine Burke, Libertarian was unfancied in this competitive Group 2 contest after underperforming in his previous outing in the Sandown Classic Trial, a race won in impressive fashion by the Irish Derby-bound Sugar Boy. However, the areas of underperformance which were evident last time out were emphatically dispersed in this contest as William Buick urged his mount to a convincing one and three-quarter lengths success.
With Dashing Star setting a strong front end pace through the initial stages of the race, Trading Leather, for the team of Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning, sat tracking in second with Aidan O'Brien's Indian Chief sitting towards the tail end of the field alongside the Highclere Throughbred-owned, Greatwood, and Elaine Burke's long-shot chance, Libertarian.
As the leader began to come back towards the field, a plethora of horses were provided with the ideal opportunity to power to victory en route to Epsom. With five horses stretched across the track, the battle on the Knaivesmire would provide an enthralling finish, a battle of who would want victory the most deep down inside. Many faltered, unable to provide a challenge suitable of a Classic-bound superstar, with Libertarian taking the race by the scruff of the neck under William Buick, scooting up the far rail to an unlikely victory after being under significant pressure early on in the race.
Windhoek, previously unbeaten in his Classic season after two eyecatching victories at Newmarket, could do no better than finish in fourth place after seemingly looking to throw down a considerable challenge with two furlongs to go. John Gosden' Ghurair was one place further back in fifth.
Aidan O'Brien had aimed Indian Chief at this race since his runaway maiden victory at Leopardstown. A colt whom is exceptionally bred, as one would expect from a horse towards the top of the pecking order in Ballydoyle's Classic battalion, Indian Chief seemingly lacked a finishing effort of any great substance to enable him to challenge for victory inside the final furlong despite threatening to run a big race on the far-side rail momentarily.
Instead, it was Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning who proved best of the rest. The duo which will team up yet again in a bid to claim a second Classic for Dawn Approach in the Epsom Derby in two weeks time, saw Trading Leather provide a decent effort of his own, punching his own ticket to Chantilly for the Prix du Jockey Club with a determined second place finish after tracking the quick early pace fractions set by the leader. Continually under pressure after tracking Dashing Star's hot pace, Manning's continued requests for Trading Leather to produce his best efforts proved fruitful as the son of Teofilio continued to find renewed efforts all the way up the Knavesmire stretch.
For Elaine Burke, this would mark her greatest achievement yet amongst the training ranks. Based in Middleham in the heart of Yorkshire, Burke's yard is one which had previously reaped the rewards provided by stable stalwart Lord Shanakill when under the care of her husband, Karl. With Karl opting not to return to the training ranks after a year of enforced absence from the sport, although still heavily involved in the team, his wife Elaine was placed in charge of the yard.
Considerably quieter than the days of Lord Shankill, whom exhumed confidence and enjoyment with each and every run, eventually culminating in victory in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat, today would be Elaine Burke's landmark victory, a burst back for the Burke team into the big time.
"He's a proper horse, we've always thought a lot of him" said Karl Burke, "Sandown was a nonsense of a race for him. He's a big backward animal and has taken a lot of time and he has done nothing but improve."
Whether Libertarian was ideally suited by the exploding front end pace, time will tell. For now, the Burke team can dream of lining up against the big stables, the Ballydoyles of this world, as Hubert Strecker's three year old son of New Approach takes dead aim on Epsom Downs in two weeks time.