- Sire-Dam -
The first Derby to be run behind closed doors, at a deserted Epsom, yielded a stunning winner.
Never mind not seeing a spectator, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Serpentine barely saw another horse, either, as he raced in a clear lead from an early stage.
Early in the home straight he was in splendid isolation and it became apparent that the pursuing pack, including five of his stablemates, were facing an unequal struggle.
Serpentine had only lost his maiden tag a week earlier and Emmet McNamara, his jockey, was having his first ride in the race. No matter: the combination crossed the line five and a half-lengths clear at 25/1 and the sense of shock was reinforced by two big outsiders – Khalifa Sat (50/1) and Amhran Na Bhfiann (66/1) – being the next pair home.
The Tricast paid £55,977.83 to a £1 stake.
O’Brien watched the race at home with his sons, Joseph and Donnacha, and said of his eighth winner in the premier Classic: “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.”
Serpentine was then absent two months before reappearing in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. Ridden far less positively, by Christophe Soumillon, he finished fourth behind stablemate Mogul (who had been sixth to him at. Epsom).
The Arc had been on his agenda but he missed that after being among those caught up among those horses who ate contaminated feed.
Instead, he signed off for the year by finishing fourth to Addeybb in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.
Serpentine will be back in 2021. But even if never wins another race none of us will ever forget the manner of his Derby triumph.