O'Brien hints that Johannesburg is Kentucky bound

 

Aidan O'Brien gave his strongest hint yet that Johannesburg, who lost his unbeaten record at the Curragh last weekend, will be Kentucky Derby-bound on the first weekend in May.

Last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner finished second, beaten a short-head, to Rebelline in Sunday's Gladness Stakes, and bookmakers immediately pushed out his price for the "Run for the Roses" at Churchill Downs.

He also has the Sagitta 2000 Guineas at Newmarket as an option as debate continues over his stamina but O'Brien stressed that he would not be frightened to tackle the 10-furlong trip of the American Classic.

"He might have lacked a little bit of fitness but one thing Sunday showed is that he has not lost is his pace," said the Ballydoyle trainer today. "If anything he has got pacier. When they lose it then you're in trouble.

"He came there well on the bit and Mick (Kinane) was just trying to save him and cut down on him, a bit like Pat Eddery on El Gran Senor in the Derby. Then the momentum goes. We were trying not to bottom him.

"Mick was playing a blinder but then Kevin`s (Prendergast) filly came by him.

"The Gladness is a tough race for three-year-olds and I think it probably took the edge off Giant's Causeway when he won and cost him the Guineas.

"He's really well and he is a fast horse. We won't have any faster here over two or three furlongs.

"We wanted to find out if he will get 10 furlongs without exposing him.

"It's very possible that he will go to Kentucky and you could see him cruising going into the last furlong. That's when it will happen - he will either stay cruising or he won't.

"Plans are open but it's very possible he will go to Kentucky - they can't all run in the Guineas. He loves the dirt and has that pace. We can always bring him back in trip later, for the July Cup. We can pull him back in trip any time. There's also the option of the Preakness later."

O'Brien confirmed that Kinane would be on board in America, and that the pair would be joined by stable mate Castle Gandolfo who will be ridden by an American jockey.

But the latter would not run if Johannesburg did not make the journey.

PA