John F Kennedy: ground blamed for his comeback defeatPICTURE: Caroline Norris
O’Brien duo bid to get back on track in Dante
A CONFUSING Derby picture, not least for Aidan O'Brien, should become clearer on the Knavesmire on Thursday when John F Kennedy and Ol' Man River attempt to get their seasons back on track after very disappointing performances on their first starts of the season.
John F Kennedy lost his position at the head of the Derby market when trailing in last of three in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown last month and is now 8-1 to give his trainer a fourth consecutive Derby victory next month, while Ol' Man River, winner of both his races last year, will be trying to bounce back after trailing in last in the 2,000 Guineas.
The Betfred Dante Stakes has not had much impact on O'Brien's Derby success story. None of his five Derby winners ran in the Dante and, of his four winners of the York trial, three - Saratoga Springs (1998), Septimus (2006) and Black Bear Island (2009) - went on to run without distinction at Epsom. Cape Blanco, his 2010 Dante winner, missed Epsom and ran in the Prix du Jockey Club before landing the Irish Derby.
Last week Hans Holbein and Kilimanjaro, neither of whom were in the forefront of Classic contenders, progressed from maidens to land the Chester Vase and the Lingfield Derby Trial respectively, whereas Thursday's contenders started the campaign with much higher profiles.
Testing ground was reported to have contributed to John F Kennedy's poor display in the Ballysax and similar conditions caused him to miss Sunday's Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.
O'Brien said: "We decided against running John F Kennedy again in testing conditions. We hope the better ground will help him show his true ability. He came on a lot from his first run last year.
"Things didn't happen for Ol' Man River in the Guineas and Joseph [O'Brien] was easy on him when his chance had gone. We've been happy with him since. We hope both will run well but you'd like to have seen them do better first time out."