Masterful McNamara wins Epsom Derby on unlikely hero Serpentine


History beckoned for Aidan O’Brien on Saturday as he bid to become the first trainer in Derby history to win the contest eight times. He certainly had a fantastic chance of doing so, with the likes of Mogul, Russian Emperor and Vatican City in his arsenal.

One of those horses winning, however, would have been just too simple, as just like Wings Of Eagles in 2017, it was an unlikely partnership that stole the day for Ballydoyle.

Serpentine The Unlikely Hero

Sent off a 25/1 shot for Britain’s biggest flat race, few had envisaged O’Brien’s lesser light would be playing a part in the finish. He took three races to win his maiden, landing a modest race at the Curragh one week prior in the first-time cheekpieces.

His first race over the twelve-furlong distance, perhaps that race wasn’t quite as weak as first thought, as his nine-length romp at the Curragh translated to a five-length pummeling of the Derby field just one week later.

McNamara Steals One From The Front

In truth, it was ingenuity that gave Ballydoyle a record-breaking win in Epsom’s premier classic. It was simple, yet eloquent from Emmet McNamara, who rode his opposition to sleep with a tactical masterclass from the front. Sending his mount into a five-length lead early, that was the closest the field would ever get to the son of Galileo.

The jockeys in behind, understandably, thought that McNamara was going to come back to them in the closing stages. The pace had completely collapsed in the earlier Oaks, in which Love was the one to capitalize with a strong-late surge under Ryan Moore.

It became very obvious he wasn’t coming back, however, when he spurted twelve lengths clear after Tattenham Corner. Nothing was closing as we hit the three-furlong pole and McNamara had plenty of horse left, pushed out to the line for one of the great Derby rides on a fitting day of history.

What Next For Serpentine?

The Derby victor is entered into two races as it stands, the first being the Group 2 Curragh Cup, which seems very unlikely. The second engagement looks far more realistic and in line with his talent, the Irish St Leger.

Given the way he galloped over the Derby field, a step up to the Leger distance (1m 6f) should prove perfect for him. It’s also now more than possible that he ends up going for the Derby-St Leger double on this side of the Irish Sea, with two bookmakers installing him into joint-favouritism for the Doncaster classic in September.

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