Aiden O’Brien sealed a record eighth victory in the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday when Serpentine showed remarkable tenacity to steal the race from the front, a week on from shedding his maiden tag at the Curragh.
The shock success owed much to the tactics employed by jockey Emmet McNamara, who pushed his mount into the lead in the early stages. It was a position that the pair held with a growing advantage as they rounded Tattenham Corner – the only question was whether the rest of the field would catch them.
Those watching soon had their answer as the likes of Kameko and English King never threatened to catch Serpentine, leaving the three-year-old clear in front to seal a five and a half-length success in the Blue Riband.
Khalifa Sat, partnered by Tom Marquand, was second with another outsider in Amhran Na Bhfiann in third, just ahead of 2,000 Guineas winner Kameko in fourth place.
It was the biggest success of McNamara’s career and he said: “Aidan O’Brien filled me with a huge amount of confidence so it’s not a complete surprise. He told me if we got things right like the balance of pace and things worked out well, he said ‘he’s one horse that actually could win the Derby’.
“He instilled that into me, and I actually did believe him because when that man tells you something about a horse, you believe it.
“I thought I was getting an easy lead and I couldn’t hear a thing through the whole race. I never looked behind me and all I could hear was the horse breathing. He was in a nice rhythm and I knew I wasn’t going a million miles an hour.
“I thought I’d saved enough through the first half of the race up the hill and I had enough to get home and thankfully I did. He’s a horse who stays very well.
“That’s what makes it feel a little bit more surreal – the empty stands and I didn’t hear another horse. I feel like I’m going to wake up just after riding a bit of work – it’s a bit unbelievable.
“I hope Eric McNamara [father] is ok at home and hasn’t died of a heart attack or anything! It’s unbelievable, a huge amount of thanks and gratitude to Aidan and all his family – I have spent a fantastic six years there – and to all the owners who have shown a bit of faith in me today.”
Paul Smith, son of Derrick Smith who owns Serpentine alongside Michael Tabor and John Magnier, added: “Incredible isn’t it? Those Galileos – they never know when to lie down! Absolutely incredible.
“I am so pleased for Emmet McNamara, he is a big part of the team back at Ballydoyle. He got chinned in the Irish Derby a week or so back, he works so hard for us, no disrespect to the other jockeys, but I am delighted for him.
“When you have Galileo and you have Aidan, anything is possible! Aidan knew he would stay well, we knew that, they let him go and he just ran for fun. It was an incredible race to watch, I was very, very hopeful because I knew he would get home, I really did.”
The Coolmore homebred is out of the Danehill Dancer mare Remember When, who finished second to Snow Fairy in the 2010 Oaks and is a brother to the Group winners Wedding Vow, Beacon Rock and Bye Bye Baby.
He is of course by the stud’s perennial champion sire Galileo, who became the very first winner of the Epsom showpiece for O’Brien when the son of Sadler’s Wells won the contest in 2001.
O’Brien’s other Derby winners are High Chaparral (2002), Camelot (2012), Ruler Of The World (2013), Australia (2014), Wings Of Eagles (2017) and Anthony Van Dyck (2019).
Love the real deal
There may have been no members of the public in attendance at Epsom on Saturday to witness the outstanding performance of Love in the Investec Oaks, but the manner of her scintillating victory showcased why she is a true star in the making.
With pacemakers Tiempo Vuela and Passion setting a frenetic tempo in a mini race of their own in the fillies’ Classic, Love was waited with under jockey Ryan Moore after navigating Tattenham Corner.
As the leaders were reeled in by Ennistymon, Love took the lead with a quarter of a mile to travel and showcased an incredible turn of foot to power away from her rivals to take the Group 1 by nine lengths and complete the 1,000 Guineas-Oaks double, the first to do so since Minding in 2016.
Moore said: “She was exceptional today. You never expect to win the Oaks like that. I’m not sure how far she won but it felt like a long way to me. Hopefully she’ll be one to look forward to and she’ll be a threat for anything.
“For me, she took another step forward [from the Guineas]. She loved the trip and for me her best furlong was her last furlong. She’s got a great temperament and is a lovely mover and, for me, she couldn’t have been any more impressive.”
Equally impressed was her trainer, the master of Ballydoyle, and O’Brien said: “She’s very special. It’s hard to say that you would ever have a filly better than that. We saw what she did in the Guineas, and she doubled it today, and it’s only her second run of the year. It’s amazing really.
“We always thought she’d get a mile and a quarter well and she’s by Galileo and has a lovely long stride and sticks her head out and really tries. We were always hopeful the extra distance in the Oaks was going to improve her and Ryan gave her a lovely ride.”
Trainer John Quinn sealed his 1,000th winner under both codes when Safe Voyage got going late on to take the Listed Surrey Stakes while the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes went the way of Godolphin’s Summer Romance.