05/16/2013 3:19PM

Dante Stakes, prep for Epsom Derby, goes to Libertarian in an upset


Libertarian, one of the two longest shots in the field, upset the Group 2 Dante Stakes on Thursday at York.

The Dante is considered a prep race for the Epsom Derby, but few will be rushing to back Libertarian in the big race. While Libertarian is by the same sire – New Approach – as Derby favorite Dawn Approach, Thursday’s victory was just the second of his career and first in a stakes race, where Dawn Approach is a multiple Group 1 winner, and a perfect 7 for 7.

It was Dawn Approach’s stablemate, the Jim Bolger-trained Trading Leather, who wound up closest to Libertarian at the finish, coming home 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner, who was ridden to victory by William Buick for trainer Elaine Burke. In third, another three-quarters of a length back, was favored Indian Chief, who made an imposing bid between horses after being held near the back of the field, but could not quite finish off his run in his first group stakes effort.

This was the second stakes start for Libertarian, whose debut victory produced a win at Pontefract, a spacious course suitable to Libertarian’s big-boned body type. Libertarian came off the bridle in the early going Thursday while racing near the rear, but commenced a steady rally three furlongs from the finish, and came home best while rallying along the inside of rivals in the Dante. Winning time over about 1 5/16 miles on a course rated good to soft was 2:10.59.

Declaration of War heads Lockinge

The Group 1 J.T. Lockinge Stakes was the focus of the racing world one year ago, when Frankel made his 4-year-old debut in the race. Unsurprisingly, the 2013 edition of the race is attracting far less attention, except from gamblers, who several days ago hammered the Aidan O’Brien-trained Declaration of War down to favoritism in the one-mile race at Newbury. Four-year-old Declaration of War, an American-bred colt by War Front, appears to be bursting with upside. He went 2 for 2 as a 2-year-old in France two seasons ago, won 2 of his 3 starts last year in Ireland, including his first venture into group stakes competition, and began his 2013 campaign last month at Leopardstown with a flashy victory over four overmatched foes in a listed stakes functioning –or so it seems – as a mere Lockinge prep.

Chief among his 12 rivals in the Lockinge are Farhh and Cityscape. Farhh, who makes his seasonal debut for Godolphin, won only 1 of 6 starts in 2012, but had a strong campaign nonetheless, finishing second in five important Group 1’s in England and France.

Seven-year-old Group 1-winning Cityscape, like Farhh, makes his first start of the year, a change from recent seasons when he wintered in Dubai.