Libertarian can take revenge
He looks like a giraffe, he moves like a gawky adolescent and he floated like Russell Grant on Strictly Come Dancing when asked to handle Epsom's undulations on his latest appearance.
- Related Content
But Libertarian deserves more respect than he is being given ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and should be backed at 7/2 to beat Ruler Of The World and the rest.
Having descended Tattenham Corner with just Mars behind him, William Buick was hard at work on the horse from over three furlongs out but it wasn't for at least a quarter of a mile that he started to make proper inroads towards the leader.
His failure to find a change of gear any earlier was partly a consequence of the absurd lack of early pace that turned the contest into a four-furlong sprint, but just as much a result of the fact that he lacks the cruising speed of some of the rivals he will face here. Even Libertarian's most ardent supporter would have to admit that it is his achilles heel in exalted company such as this.
However, not only is the Curragh a more orthodox track that is less likely to trick the horse as he tries to find full stride in the home straight, but this is also a race where the prospect of an unsuitably slow pace (and the consequent shift of emphasis from stamina to speed) appears far less likely, not least because Libertarian's new owners have supplemented in a pacemaker, just in case.
Ruler Of The World is an admirable racehorse and a worthy Derby winner, but there is no doubt in my mind that he benefited from a typically wise Ryan Moore ride at Epsom, and that the sprint that unfolded once Dawn Approach began to flap in front suited him far more than those ridden from the rear of the field.
Can he reverse that form? I don't believe he's a certainty to do so, but I do believe his prospects are better than the market suggests.
A separate argument is whether he will necessarily be able to replicate his Dante victory over Trading Leather and it's interesting to read Donn McClean's case for the latter to reverse the verdict.
However in my view - barring one aberration at Sandown - Libertarian has improved with every start, perhaps not unexpectedly for a horse who was too backward to race at two, and his upward curve may not have reached a peak year.
Over the wide-open spaces of the Curragh, I can see him heading after the race to pastures new in Newmarket with a trophy on the passenger seat of the horsebox.
I did try to tackle the Paddy Power Sprint earlier on the card, but none of the horses on my shortlist were drawn high enough to take advantage of the usual bias towards the stands' side on the straight course and given that Joseph O'Brien may well be sufficiently brave to plough a lone furrow from stall one on Gabriel's Lad, I just didn't feel enough confidence to get involved.
Pressed for a selection, it would be Angel's Pursuit, who is better treated again and wants this return to six furlongs. But happily the bookmakers haven't yet started forcing anyone to have a bet in a contest as horrendously competitive as this.
Instead it's Newmarket and my old friend Hawkeyethenoo who will be carrying my cash in the Criterion Stakes after yet another respectable run in last Saturday's Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
This sort of contest is, of course, a different kettle of fish from the pillar-to-post sprints in which he has so far shown all of his best form. Indeed, Hawkeyethenoo (a name I still enjoy saying, after all these years) is only 1-6 when tried over seven furlongs.
But although the sectional timings show that he was finishing as strongly as anything last Saturday, he does seem to be increasingly struggling to keep up in the early stages and I do believe this move back up in trip, particularly in a contest where the likes of Red Jazz should ensure a reasonable early gallop, could be the key that sees him return to winning form.