July 4, 2020 / 5:03 PM / a month ago

Horse racing: Serpentine stuns favourites to win Derby

LONDON (Reuters) - Serpentine produced an electrifying display of front-running to claim a shock win at the Epsom Derby on Saturday as Aidan O’Brien became the most successful trainer in the history of the famous flat race.

Horse Racing - Derby Festival - Epsom Downs Racecourse, Epsom, Britain - July 4, 2020 Serpentine ridden by Emmet McNamara wins the Investec Derby, as racing resumed behind closed doors after the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Bill Selwyn/Pool via REUTERS

The 25-1 shot opened up a huge lead on the field and they could not respond as Serpentine, ridden by Emmet McNamara, never looked like being caught.

There were no spectators to witness it, however, with the re-scheduled race being run behind closed doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Had there been, they might have been stunned into silence as Serpentine only won his first race a week ago.

Pre-race favourites English King and Kameko were run out of contention with Khalifa Sat (50-1) finishing second and Amhran Na Bhfiann (66-1) third in one of the most surprising results in the race’s recent history.

“I think I got a bit of a freebie really,” McNamara said. “It is surreal really I can’t believe it. I just have a huge amount of gratitude for Aidan O’Brien.”

It completed a memorable day for O’Brien who earlier celebrated victory in the Oaks when Love came home first.

The Oaks and Derby were run on the same day for the first time in their history as a result of the pandemic which shutdown horse racing from March to June.

The 241st running of the derby, the most prestigious flat race in the sport, will always be remembered for the eerie atmosphere that replaced the usual carnival which attracts 100,000 punters to the course and thousands more to the surrounding Downs.

Rather than the usual wall of sound at the finish line, McNamara sped to victory in silence. “I couldn’t hear anything, all I could hear was the horse breathing,” he said. “I couldn’t really look, but I knew I was clear.”

It was the first winning ride for McNamara since October.

“I was saving myself,” he joked.

It continued an incredible few weeks for O’Brien since the resumption of racing as Love also won the 1,000 Guineas.

Due to strict health protocols which meant only a limited amount of people were allowed at the course, O’Brien watched the action remotely on TV.

“He has great pedigree, we always felt that he was going to stay very well,” he said. “It was an incredible ride by Emmet.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge

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