View from connections ahead of today's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh.
- Related Content
Libertarian aims to provide Elaine and Karl Burke with the perfect parting gift before heading off to pastures new in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Saturday evening.
The son of New Approach did not make his debut until winning a Pontefract maiden in early April, but has come an awful long way in the space of three months.
Seemingly exposed when only fourth on his next appearance at Sandown, the three-year-old roared back with a shock victory in the Dante Stakes at York, booking his ticket to the biggest race of them all - the Epsom Derby.
Despite struggling to adapt to the undulating terrain, the sizeable colt ran a fantastic race in the premier Classic, beating all bar Aidan O'Brien's Ruler Of The World.
The pair renew rivalries at the Curragh this weekend, but it will be Libertarian's final start for team Burke, having been snapped up by Godolphin earlier this month.
Karl Burke, husband and assistant to North Yorkshire trainer Elaine, feels the soon to be departing stable star has every chance of turning the tables on Ruler Of The World on this more conventional track.
Burke said: "He's going there in great form. I've been very happy with his work since Epsom and I'm sure he has improved.
"Physically he looks a more mature horse than he was going into Epsom and I think mentally he has sharpened up as well.
"Certainly you would think the Curragh will suit him better (than Epsom). All these staying three-year-olds tend to progress through the summer, but being a May foal, you would like to think he has scope to improve more than the other horses that ran at Epsom."
On the possibility of his wife becoming first woman in history to train an Irish Derby winner, Burke said: "It would be great to do it for Elaine. He nearly did it at Epsom and hopefully he goes one better on Saturday."
O'Brien is bidding for a remarkable 11th Irish Derby triumph, and eighth in all, having saddled the likes of Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002) and last year's hero Camelot to win the mile-and-a-half contest.
That trio all succeeded on the back of Epsom glory and jockey Joseph O'Brien, the trainer's son, is confident Ruler Of The World can follow in their hoofprints.
O'Brien jnr told At The Races: "He's an exciting horse. He's won three times from three runs and he won very nicely the last day at Epsom so we're looking forward to it.
"You'd be hoping he'll improve for the experience of Epsom, the Curragh is a fair track and he's won there already."
O'Brien senior, who has won the last seven Irish Derbies, added: "We have been very happy with him (since Epsom). He impressed us at Epsom and we think the Curragh will suit him even better."
Likely pacesetter Festive Cheer, the mount of Seamie Heffernan, also runs for the Ballydoyle team.
Another horse who will switch yards after this weekend's Classic is the Patrick Prendergast-trained Sugar Boy.
He beat Libertarian and Epsom third Galileo Rock in the Sandown Classic Trial last time and was snapped up by owner Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum earlier this week.
The trainer is the grandson of the legendary Paddy Prendergast, who won 17 Irish Classics including four Irish Derbies, the last of which was Meadow Court in 1965.
Prendergast said: "He's in good shape and we've had no problems.
"The rain dance I've been doing hasn't worked, but there's nothing we can do about that. It's my first runner in the Derby and, to be honest, I haven't even got round to thinking about the fact it will be his last run for me.
"We're looking forward to the race, he's going there well and fresh. I'm hoping Epsom might have emptied a couple of them out. We'll see."
Galileo Rock's trainer David Wachman acknowledges his charge will have to keep improving to again trouble those who finished ahead of him at Epsom.
Wachman said: "He's in good form and the ground looks OK so far. Hopefully the rain stays away.
"It's a competitive race. Hopefully he's still progressing as if you don't progress month by month, you get left behind."
Jim Bolger's only previous Irish Derby success was with St Jovite back in 1992, but he could find the target again with Trading Leather.
Bolger said: "The step up in trip should suit him. He seems in very good form and is looking very well. He wants good ground or a little faster."
John Oxx has won the Irish Derby with Sinndar (2000) and Alamshar (2003) and is this year represented by outsider Little White Cloud.
Oxx said: "He's rated 107 and has to improve 10lb to be competitive. I think he'll improve a certain amount, but whether he makes that jump I don't know. Hopefully with the time and the extra distance he'll make the jump, but the gap is obviously there."
A nine-runner field is completed by Godolphin pacemaker Cap O'Rushes and Pat Shanahan's outsider Ralston Road.