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Derby Festival 2020: Serpentine’s Derby Win puts Aidan O’Brien in the Record Books

Aidan O’Brien created history by becoming the most successful trainer in the history in the Investec Derby, as Serpentine handed the master of Ballydoyle an eighth winner of the premier Classic.

O’Brien said: “We discuss each horse and try and give every horse the best chance in the race and we ride them all accordingly.

“Emmet was happy to go the front on his horse with his horse having won from the front the last day and William (Buick, third Amhran Na Bhfiann) was happy to also go forward if he was able. It was exactly the way it was. Wayne Lordan rode Serpentine the last day and he won it very impressively. He ran through to the line over a mile and a quarter at the Curragh and to do that, you have to be very good and have class and that is what he did really.

“We all watched the race together, Annemarie, Sarah, Ana and Donnacha. Donnacha mentioned at around five furlongs out that he thought Emmet would win here. He was very comfortable and there was no-one going to challenge him and he wasn’t going to stop.

“Emmet gave him a brilliant ride. He judged the pace really well. He was a horse who was going to get every yard of the mile and a half.

“We are so delighted. We are in a very privileged position to have such unbelievable horses and such unbelievably well-bred horses. We are working with special people. It is a position very few people will ever get into. The horses have such incredible pedigrees, top and bottom. There are so many special people involved and everyone puts their heart and soul into it day in, day out. Everyone loves what they do and we really appreciate every opportunity that we get and how grateful we are to everyone for what they do. It is just very special for us to be part of such a special team of people.”

He added: “We always thought he would stay very well. He would have no problem getting the Leger trip. He is by Galileo and from a Dylan Thomas family. I would imagine he would have no problem getting the trip if that is what the lads decide to do.

“He stays very well. I don’t think he would have a problem with soft ground in the autumn in an Arc. This horse has a little bit of knee action and on his pedigree, he would handle slower ground in something like an Arc.”

Commenting on the fact that he could not be at Epsom in person (due to Covid-19 quarantine rules) he said: “Obviously, we would love to be there, but we are lucky to be racing. Everyone is communicating well. We had a good meeting before the racing. Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith are in Barbados along with Sue and John Magnier in Ireland. Everyone is on the call and with Zoom it is easy for us to chat. We would love to be there with you, but it is something we can’t do as if I came over and then headed back to Ireland, I wouldn’t be able to do anything for a couple of weeks.

“It’s great the event has happened. A big thanks to everyone at Epsom. It’s marvellous that is has happened and we would love to be there, but it just wasn’t to be this year.”

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Serpentine is the fourth Investec Derby winner from 36 runners in owner Sue Magnier’s colours – the other three are Galileo (2001), Ruler Of The World (2013) and Anthony Van Dyck (2019).

This was the record eighth Investec Derby success for trainer Aidan O’Brien from 91 runners – his other winners were Galileo (2001), High Chapparal (2002), Camelot (2012), Ruler Of The World (2013), Australia (2014), Wings Of Eagles (2017) and Anthony Van Dyck (2019).

Serpentine’s win also now makes Galileo the most successful Investec Derby sire of all time with five winners. His other scorers are New Approach (2008), Ruler Of The World (2013), Australia (2014) and Anthony Van Dyck (2019).


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Emmet McNamara, 30 years old, was one of seven first-time jockeys for the Derby 2020. He becomes the third first first-time jockey to win the Investec Derby this century following Mickael Barzalona and Padraig Beggy.

He said: “I think I got a little bit of a freebie! I had a huge amount of confidence in the horse having spoken to Aidan during the week. He filled me with confidence and said that he is a horse that is going to stay a mile and six furlongs for you well. He said jump, go your own tempo, from halfway after you give him a breather from the six to the five, you keep building to that winning post, he will keep going. God, he was right!

“I couldn’t hear a thing, I could just hear the horse breathing, he was in a good rhythm, he was relaxed. I couldn’t hear a thing around me, I didn’t want to be looking, I wasn’t aware of it, I knew I was a few clear alright.

“It’s a bit surreal really, can’t believe it. I hope Eric McNamara [father, racing trainer] is OK at home and hasn’t died of a heart attack or anything!

“It is unbelievable, a huge amount of thanks and gratitude to Aidan O’Brien 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. I really appreciate it.”

At the press conference following his famous victory Emmet McNamara added: “No, I didn’t expect to be sitting here.

“The only thing I would say in that regard is that Aidan O’Brien filled me with a huge amount of confidence, so it’s not a complete surprise. He said that if things worked out well, he was one horse who 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, if he tells you that the sky is green, you’d believe him.

“I thought I was after getting quite an easy lead; I couldn’t hear a thing all the way through the race. I never looked behind me, but I couldn’t here a thing behind me. All I could hear was the horse breathing, and he was in a nice rhythm and I knew I wasn’t after going a million miles an hour, so I was imagining they were ignoring me a small bit and I was just hoping that the clock in my own head was working a little bit, because I thought I had saved enough in the first half of the race going up the hill, I didn’t think I had gone mad, I thought I had enough to get home and thankfully I did. He is a horse that stays very well and Aidan said that to me this morning, ‘he’s a horse that stays a mile and six for you, so be positive whatever you do’.

“That’s what makes it feel even more surreal – the empty stands, didn’t hear a horse – I feel like I’m going to wake up after just riding a bit of work or something, to be honest with you, it’s a bit unbelievable.”

Asked if it was correct that he hadn’t ridden a winner since October last year, he laughed and said: “I’ve been saving myself! Things are very tough in Ireland in terms of getting rides, and I am at Aidan’s every morning of the week so I am not going here, there and everywhere to ride out. I am not the lightest guy in the world, but thankfully Aidan knows I am riding out every day and I am fit as a fiddle, or I like to think I am, so when a race like this pops up and he has got a few extra runners in it, thankfully he seems to give me a couple of spins, and I am extremely grateful to both him and the owners for showing their faith in me, having not been riding on a consistent basis.

“When you are born in racing and you are coming up, you are always dreaming of these races and you think that they are possible, but it’s only when you actually start riding against these guys, different professionals, that you realise just how hard it is to win the likes of these races, and whatever ability you have, if you don’t get on the horses, you’ve absolutely no chance. I was lucky I got on the horse – there are a thousand other lads in that weighing room that are far more talented than me, but they didn’t ride Serpentine in the Derby today. I am very lucky to get on him.”


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Paul Smith, son of Derrick Smith who owns winner along with Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor: “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! It really is! 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. Once they let him alone, I thought this is going to be interesting.

“Love was classy too, I am just so pleased for the team and Emmet is such a team player.

“[Galileo] He is the holy one! He is the one that they are going to be following for many, many years and long may it last.”

He added: “We always knew Serpentine would stay, and that he would bowl along in front, and if they came to catch him he wouldn’t fall into a hole – we knew that. He quickened away well and put it to bed quite nicely, didn’t he?

“Going round Tattenham Corner, I thought it would take a very good horse to peg him back.”

Speaking of Aidan O’Brien’s new record, Paul Smith said: “It’s incredible. Aidan really is a genius – it’s a word that has been used before, but we know he is. He gets his horses so right and works with the pedigrees so well.

“Aidan is just so, so good at getting these horses ready for big races.

“They have done a great job here at Epsom. We really didn’t know what to expect, but they have really done an excellent job. I am so pleased for everyone that it was a great day, win, lose or draw.”

The 241st Investec Derby (Group 1)

4.55pm, Epsom Downs, Saturday, 4 July, 2020. 1m 4f 6y. £500,000 Total Prize Fund. 

1 (12) Serpentine (IRE) (Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith) Aidan O’Brien IRE 3-9-00 Emmet McNamara* 25/1

2 (14) Khalifa Sat (IRE) (Ahmad Al Shaikh) Andrew Balding 3-9-00 Tom Marquand* 50/1

3 (5) Amhran Na Bhfiann (IRE) (Derrick Smith, Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor) Aidan O’Brien IRE 3-9-00 William Buick 66/1

4 (11) Kameko (USA) (Qatar Racing Limited) Andrew Balding 3-9-00 Oisin Murphy 5/2 Fav

5 (1) English King (FR) (Bjorn Nielsen) Ed Walker 3-9-00 Frankie Dettori 100/30

6 (2) Mogul (Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith & Sue Magnier) Aidan O’Brien IRE 3-9-00 Ryan Moore 7/1

7 (6) Russian Emperor (IRE) (Laurie Macri/Sue Magnier et al) Aidan O’Brien IRE 3-9-00 Seamie Heffernan 6/1

8 (8) Vatican City (IRE) (Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith) Aidan O’Brien IRE 3-9-00 Padraig Beggy 17/2

9 (16) Gold Maze (The Long Wait Partnership) Jessica Harrington IRE 3-9-00 David Egan* 150/1

10 (13) Highland Chief (IRE) (Fitri Hay) Paul & Oliver Cole 3-9-00 Ben Curtis* 20/1

11 (3) Pyledriver (K & W Bloodstock Limited & Roger Devlin) William Muir 3-9-00 Martin Dwyer 16/1

12 (15) Mohican Heights (IRE) (Sun Bloodstock SARL) David Simcock 3-9-00 Andrea Atzeni 25/1

13 (10) Mythical (FR) (Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith) Aidan O’Brien IRE 3-9-00 James Doyle 100/1

14 (7) Max Vega (IRE) (The Pickford Hill Partnership) Ralph Beckett 3-9-00 Harry Bentley* 33/1

15 (4) Emissary (Khalid Abdullah) Hugo Palmer 3-9-00 Jim Crowley 40/1

16 (9) Worthily (USA) (George Strawbridge) John Gosden 3-9-00 Martin Harley* 40/1

* = first time jockey


Breeding: ch c Galileo (IRE) – Remember When (IRE) (Danehill Dancer)

Breeder: Coolmore


16 ran

Time: 2m 34.43s


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