Serpentine ridden by Emmet McNamara before winning the Investec Derby at Epsom Downs racecourse, the UK, Britain - July 4, 2020 Picture: GEORGE SELWYN/REUTERS
Serpentine ridden by Emmet McNamara before winning the Investec Derby at Epsom Downs racecourse, the UK, Britain - July 4, 2020 Picture: GEORGE SELWYN/REUTERS

There were no roller coasters at the Investec Derby meeting at Epsom in the UK on Saturday, but racing fans must have felt they had been on one with the results of the two classic races.

In the Oaks — run 80 minutes before the Derby — punters would have been singing the 1967 Beatles hit All You Need Is Love as Aidan O’Brien’s filly named Love, the 11-10 favourite, romped home by nine lengths in the hands of Ryan Moore.

John Gosden’s runner Frankly Darling was expected to give Love a stern examination, yet the challenge failed to materialise, with Frankie Dettori’s mount finishing a never-dangerous third.

So off-course punters had money in their pockets as they approached the Derby with English King, Kameko and Mogul the three runners most prominent in the betting.

In this case, it was not a question of Queen’s hit Another One Bites the Dust, but — to the delight of bookies worldwide — “all three bite the dust”.

Perhaps not one pundit on the planet went for Serpentine, as the colt was one of the outsiders of O’Brien’s sextet and had only won a maiden at the Curragh seven days ago. Yes, he had won the race by nine lengths but that surely was not enough against the cream of UK three-year-olds.

However, Serpentine, ridden by little-known Irish jockey Emmet McNamara, proceeded to lead from start to finish to provide O’Brien with racing history. He now has eight Derby victories to his credit to better the seven achieved a long while ago by Fred Darling and John Porter.

O’Brien’s run started in 2001 with Galileo and his other successes have been High Chapparal (2002), Camelot (2012), Ruler Of The World (2013), Australia (2014), Wings Of Eagles (2017) and Anthony Van Dyck (2019).

O’Brien commented: “It is what John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith race horses for — they test their horses. To win a Derby you have to have speed, you have to stay and you have to have courage.”

No-one knows if the two most fancied runners, English King and Kameko, do stay the Derby trip as they were never seen with a chance. Supporters of the first-named must have been worried as Ed Walker’s runner was sweating and agitated at the start.

“I have got no excuses, just a frustrating race. A Derby with no pace,” said Walker.

Dettori, who was seeking his third Derby win, said: “Between the three and one furlong mark, English King couldn’t pick up. He was just inexperienced.”

There was also no joy for each-way backers as second-placed Kalifa Sat — five lengths adrift of Serpentine — started at 50-1 and third-placed Amhran Na Bhfiann was a 66-1 chance.

At Scottsville in Pietermaritzburg, the No 8 was also significant for veteran trainer Dennis Drier as this is the number of times he has won the Gold Medallion — this year with Tempting Fate.

Justin Snaith’s youngster Erik The Red was as disappointing as English King at Epsom, never threatening to get involved. In the end, it was a 1-2 for the Drier yard with Tempting Fate — a son of Master Of My Fate — beating his stablemate Pray For Rain by a length and a half.

Sean Tarry will again be crowned champion trainer at the Equus awards and he won two grade 1 races — the SA Fillies Sprint with Celtic Sea and the Golden Horse Sprint with 18-1 chance Warrior’s Rest.

Celtic Sea’s goose looked well and truly cooked with 300m to run, but Gavin Lerena never threw in the towel and he was rewarded when getting the photo-finish verdict over Run Fox Run.

Gareth Van Zyl — son of former jockey Gavin Van Zyl — was understandably beaming from ear to ear (under his mask!) after his filly Vernichey had dug deep to land the grade 1 Allan Robertson. It was another success for Warren Kennedy who will try to cap his season with victory on Rainbow Bridge in the Vodacom Durban July.

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