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Huge day for Ireland as O'Brien and McNamara win Derby with 25-1 shot

Limerick jockey Emmet McNamara enjoys biggest success of his career by steering Serpentine to Epsom glory.

McNamara guides Serpentine home for a shock win.
McNamara guides Serpentine home for a shock win.
Image: Edward Whitaker

Updated Jul 4th 2020, 5:19 PM

WELL NO ONE saw this coming. No one that is except Emmet McNamara, the 30-year-old Limerick jockey who was riding his first Derby and who shocked the racing world by steering Serpentine to Epsom glory.

It was such a strange Derby, a stunned silence around Epsom, largely because so few people were allowed inside the course but also because of what transpired.

Serpentine made all the running, established an early lead and stayed there to the end as McNamara’s rivals failed to recognise the class of this horse. 

One of six runners for Aidan O’Brien – who was winning the race for an incredible eighth time – Serpentine only shed his maiden tag at the third time of asking last weekend.

Turning out just seven days later, Serpentine appeared to be filling the pacemaker role for better-fancied stable companions, including Mogul, with Khalifa Sat and fellow O’Brien contender Amhran Na Bhfiann the only ones to really try to go with him.

Rarely does a 25-1 front-running outsider stay on in a race as big as this.

But Serpentine did so.

Foolishly, the pack let him go, aware Serpentine only won his first race a week ago, fully expecting him to run out of gas.

But he never did.

Instead the gap got bigger and bigger. There were 10 lengths between Serpentine and his chasers with two furlongs remaining and while the gap closed somewhat, it was quickly becoming apparent that he would not be caught as the more established horses, English King and Kameko, didn’t get close to him. 

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epsom-races-july-4th Serpentine ridden by Emmet McNamara (right) wins the Epsom Derby. Source: David Davies

Khalifa Sat stayed on to be second at 50-1 while Amhran Na Bhfiann – at 66-1 – finished third. So the bookies too were winners here but no one was as big a winner as Limerick-man, McNamara. The last time he won was in October.

“I think I got a little bit of a freebie,” McNamara said afterwards. “But I had a huge amount of confidence in the horse having spoken to Aidan during the week.

“He said he is a horse who can stay – so go at your own tempo. If you give him a breather at midway then he will hang on. And he did.”

“I couldn’t hear a thing,” he added. “All I could hear was the horse breathing. I knew I was a few clear, all right. It’s unreal. I can’t believe it.”

He continued: “The feeling is a bit surreal, really.

“I have so much gratitude for Aidan O’Brien and all his family. I have spent a fantastic six years there and to all the owners who showed faith in me today, I just want to say a massive thanks.”

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About the author:

Garry Doyle

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