Double for Aiden O’Brien as Love and Serpentine Take Two Classics at Epsom
As equine world competition slowly splutters back to life, worldwide racing continues, albeit with stringent protocols. This weekend sees two Derbys and two Oaks’ and The Group 1 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown plus two Group 1 races from Belmont Park in USA. A veritable feast of racing for the pure racing aficionados!
For the first time at Epsom, both the classic Group 1s, The Epsom Derby and The Epsom Oaks were run on the same day. As there were no ‘trial races’ before these classics, the rules were changed to allow horses to be entered only six days before the running of the races. Normally, these races have to be entered months in advance with forfeits paid as the race day gets closer.
In the Epsom Oaks, this left a field of only eight, and on paper, not a very exciting bunch with only two having ratings of over 100. The top rated Love from the Aiden O’Brien stable was rated far above all the others, but she had recently won the Thousand Guineas at Newmarket. Being by Galileo, her pedigree also suggested that she would comfortably get the distance. Love was again ridden by Ryan Moore. Probably on paper, before the off was Frankly Darling, trained by John Gosden, was the next best, but she was rated a whole 32 pounds below Love. Frankly Darling had shown that distance would be no problem as she was the only winner in the field of a 1 ½ mile race – The Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot. Frankly Darling, with the possibility of getting lit up too early before the race was taken down early by Frankie Dettori, who did a magnificent job in keeping a lid on her. With no crowds at Epsom this year, the horses remained pretty calm, especially as there was no parade before the race. John Gosden also had Tiempo Vuela in the race as a pace maker to make sure there was a true run race for Frankly Darling, as did O’Brien with Passion for his main hope Love. Both went off like hell n the night and in fact became ineffective as they ended up running their own race before both ran out of puff. Two furlongs out, Love hit the front and just kept on putting more and more distance between her and the rest of the field. She won by 9 lengths with Ennistymon trained by Aiden O’Brien in second and Frankly Darling came third. With a win like this, there must be every possibility that Love could be the first horse since Oh So Sharp in the 80s to win the British Triple Crown by winning the St Ledger in September.
In the worldwide famous Epsom Derby Stakes, there were sixteen runners, and rather like the Oaks, a rather eclectic bunch. After his emphatic win at Lingfield in early June, English King, trained by Ed Walker was the talking horse of the race. He was also the top rated at 117. On paper, this could be anyone’s race. Two Thousand Guinea winner Kameko had to be in the reckoning, but would he have the stamina to win? Being by Kitten’s Joy out of a Rock of Gibraltar mare, and having never run further than a mile, this left quite a question mark. Others horses to have run well this year and hit the headlines were Pyledriver, an unlikely contender on paper by Harbour Watch out of a Le Havre mare, but he had recently won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, rather unexpectedly one has to say. Mogul headed the O’Brien contingent of five runners, but only because everyone has been talking about him and his homework. Thus far, he hadn’t actually really done anything! All in all, before the off, this was a well below par Derby. Like the Oaks, there was no parade before the race, but before the off, English King got very hot and a little lit up, the other two main protagonists also sweated a little, but kept calm. Kameko was sent off favourite of the 16 runners and six jockeys were having their first ride in the Derby at Epsom. As expected, an O’Brien horse swept to the lead as pacemaker for the Ballydoyle compatriots and Serpentine was the chosen one. BUT at the 2 furlong marker the son of Galileo was still there and didn’t look like stopping any time soon!! And he didn’t, Serpentine had won by 7 lengths and was ridden by Emmet McNamara, his first ride at Epsom – in fact one of his first rides outside Ireland!!!His last win was 260 days ago! This Derby just stunned everyone there – jaws just dropped. The second home was another outsider Khaliffa Sat and third was Amhran Na Bhfiann. Frankly, this was an extraordinary Derby and one of the oddest for so many reasons the course at Epsom has ever witnessed.
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