Serpentine makes all to give O’Brien record eighth Derby victory

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By Press Association

Serpentine sprang a 25-1 surprise as he made all for a famous victory in the Investec Derby at Epsom.

One of six runners for Aidan O’Brien – who was winning the race for an incredible eighth time – Serpentine only shed his maiden tag at the third time of asking last weekend.

Turning out just seven days later, Serpentine appeared to be filling the pacemaker role for better-fancied stable companions, including Mogul, with Khalifa Sat and fellow O’Brien contender Amhran Na Bhfiann the only ones to really try to go with him.

But Serpentine and Emmet McNamara had built up a huge advantage by Tattenham Corner, and the Galileo colt was not for stopping – galloping all the way to the line for a five-and-a-half-length verdict.

Khalifa Sat, a 50-1 shot, hung on for second, while Amhran Na Bhfiann was third at 66-1 for a tricast that paid £55,977.83.

Kameko, winner of the 2000 Guineas, was a fast-finisher in fourth, having been sent off the 5-2 favourite, while English King was fifth and Mogul sixth under Ryan Moore.

O’Brien said: “We try to give each horse the best chance of winning and ride them all accordingly.

“This horse (Serpentine) made the running last time and was very happy to go forward if nobody else wanted to.

He won a maiden very impressively and he absolutely ran through the line over a mile and a quarter at the Curragh – to do that you have to have class.

“We all watched the race together at home and Donnacha (O’Brien, son) said after five furlongs ‘Emmet wins here’. He was in front and there was no one going to challenge him – he was not going to stop.

“Emmet gave him a brilliant ride and judged the pace really well.” On setting a new record for Derby victories, he added: “We’re so delighted, but we’re in a privileged position to have such unbelievable horses and to work for and with such special people.

“It’s a position very few people will ever get into. The horses have incredible pedigrees and everyone puts their heart and soul into it day in, day out. Everyone loves what they do and we appreciate all the opportunities that we get.

“It’s very special to us to be part of a team of such special people.

“We’d obviously love to be there, but we’re lucky to be racing. We’d love to be there, but it can’t be as if we came back here afterwards I wouldn’t be able to do anything for a couple of weeks.

“It’s great the racing is on and a great credit to everyone who is making it happen.” Looking to future plans for the winner, O’Brien said: “We always thought he’d stay very well and I don’t think he’d have any problem getting the St Leger trip, if that’s what the lads decide to do.

“He could be an Arc horse – that’s in the autumn and the ground could be soft, I don’t think he’d have any problem with that.

“Love (Oaks winner) is a beautiful mover and I don’t think you’d want to be going in deep ground with her, but this horse should handle it, so it’s very possible.” 

McNamara, who was a close second in the Irish Derby last week aboard Tiger Moth, said: “I didn’t expect to win, but Aidan did fill me with a huge amount of confidence, so it’s not a complete surprise.

“Aidan told me if we got things right with the pace and everything he is one horse that could win the Derby. He instilled that into me and I actually did believe him – if he told you the sky was green you’d believe him.

“I thought I was getting an easy lead. I couldn’t hear a thing all the way through the race and I was imagining they were after ignoring me a bit and just hoping the clock in my own head was working – I thought I’d saved enough in the first half of the race to get home.

“I didn’t hear a thing all the way through the race, apart from the horse breathing, and I think that’s what makes it even more surreal – the empty stands and never seeing another horse. I feel like I’m going to wake up after riding a bit of work – it’s a bit unbelievable.

I’m lucky I was on the horse today. There are a thousand other lads in the weighing room that are far more talented than me, but they didn’t ride Serpentine in the Derby today.

McNamara had not ridden a winner since October, and added: “I’ve been saving myself! Things are very tough getting rides in Ireland and I’m in Aidan’s every morning, so I’m not going here, there and everywhere to ride out.

“I’m not the lightest in the world, but Aidan knows I’m as fit as a fiddle and I’m extremely grateful to him and the owners for the faith they’ve shown in me.” Having been narrowly denied victory in last week’s Irish Derby aboard Tiger Moth, McNamara will be riding O’Brien-trained outsider Fort Myers in the French Derby at Chantilly on Sunday, after which he will return to Ireland and spend 14 days in quarantine due to the current travel restrictions in place to combat coronavirus.

He said: “I told Aidan I wouldn’t mind 14 months in quarantine, never mind 14 days!

“Hopefully it will be another big day in Chantilly. I’ll have ridden in three Derbys in little over a week, which is crazy really, but I’m just glad to have the opportunity.

“I’m sure I’ll be OK in quarantine for 14 days – it will give me plenty of time to watch the replays!” 

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