JFK favourite for Epsom Derby — that’s enough to make even Aidan O’Brien laugh

Any horse called John F Kennedy, trained by Aidan O’Brien, was always destined to attract more than normal attention.

And so it came pass that the son of Galileo was propelled to the head of the Epsom Derby market, following his easy success in a maiden at the Curragh last Sunday.

Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States and a man for whom this country continues to have a deep affection.

Much of that is based on the fact he spent four days in Ireland in June of 1963 and some five months later, in November, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Ballydoyle normally reserves such massively high profile names for those that are regarded as having a serious chance of going on to be great horses. Good examples are Nijinsky, admittedly a fair way back, Mozart, Galileo, Australia, Camelot and George Washington.

But, in lots of ways, John F Kennedy is the ultimate and there wasn’t a tipster in the country, I would suggest, that didn’t tip him to make a winning debut at Leopardstown last month.

The reasoning was obvious, there was surely no possibility of the name being used on a horse who didn’t at least possess enormous potential.

Nine contested that Leopardstown race and he went off an uneasy 8-11 shot. The uneasiness was no surprise, because the word began to filter through, as the race neared, that he was far from bombproof.

That was exactly how it panned out. John F Kennedy never looked particularly happy and produced a tame enough effort in the straight to be beaten two and a half lengths into second by Jim Bolger’s Hall Of Fame.

Onto the Curragh last Sunday then and I must admit to being less than enthusiastic regarding his prospects.

Indeed, I fancied Michael Halford’s once-raced Portage against him, but he came out because of the rain-softened surface.

That left John F Kennedy with little to beat, but he was still a long way removed from being rock solid in the market and was allowed to go off at 11-8.

He duly won in a canter and the off course layers, brave boys, wasted no time grabbing the opportunity for a few headlines and powered him to joint favouritism for Epsom with his stable companion, Highland Reel.

John F Kennedy is bred to win the Derby, by Galileo out of Rumplestiltskin. That makes him a full brother to Tapestry, so unlucky not to land the Irish Oaks recently.

Galileo won six of his eight races, including the Epsom Derby, the Irish Derby and the King George at Ascot.

Rumplestiltskin only ran once as a three-year-old, finishing seventh in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, won by Speciosa, in 2006.

She was, however, a brilliant juvenile, winning five of her six races. She took the Group 2 Debutante Stakes at the Curragh and scored twice in Group 1 company, the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh and the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp.

All-of-that aside, however, John F Kennedy has just a single thing to recommend him on the racecourse as of now and that is winning a Curragh maiden.

One’s instinct is it was an ordinary race, although we can’t be in any way sure until some of the horses that were behind run again.

But the notion he should be favourite, or joint favourite, for the Epsom Derby has to make even Aidan O’Brien laugh!

Here’s part of an article I read recently that caught the eye. It had to do with off-course bookmakers in the Australian state of New South Wales.

That state has imposed a requirement on online bookmakers, it comes into force next month, which will force them to lay a horse to lose a minimum amount, or forfeit their licence.

The thinking behind it is to put a stop to the practice of betting operators limiting stakes, or closing accounts of successful punters.

Now isn’t that the best thing you have ever heard? But the bookmakers were soon up on their hind legs, represented by a group called the Australian Wagering Council.

They do the talking for the bookmakers, including British and Irish firms with operations in Australia such as Paddy Power, William Hill, Ladbrokes and bet365. Mind you it must said that the new system is apparently being monitored with a view to it being adopted in Britain.

Anyway, Simon Clare of Coral wasted no time entering the fray. He said: “It seems pretty incredible that, in a free market, a sport can tell private companies how they must conduct their business, and with whom, and I don’t think you will ever see such a bizarre situation repeated anywhere else in the world.”

His notion of a free market, of course, is where intelligent bookmakers are happy to do business with the vast majority of punters, the mugs.

Bizarre my backside and the sooner the off-course bookmakers in these islands are forced to behave in the same way as those in New South Wales the better.

The Group 1 Keeneland Stakes at the Curragh last Sunday didn’t half cut up, because of the ground, with three of the nine possibilities withdrawn on the day of the race.

I had a mild fancy for eventual winner, Dick Whittington, but didn’t intend to back it. But when there were only six left in the contest, it certainly became far more winnable.

When 9-1 became available on Betfair - he was returned at 6-1 - the temptation to play just became overwhelming.

The behaviour of those on the exchanges will never cease to amaze. Why would anyone want to offer 9-1 about a horse that had a real life?

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