Serpentine wins English Derby in bizarre fashion

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EPSOM, England (AP) – The first English Derby to take place without spectators took a surreal turn as 25-1 shot Serpentine went out effectively as a pacemaker and was never caught for an unlikely six-length victory at an empty Epsom Downs on Saturday.

The nature of Serpentine’s wire-to-wire victory added to the bizarre feel of the 241st running of the classic, with the course fenced off and only a few hundred people on site at a prestigious event that usually attracts as many as 100,000 race-goers.

Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, who had six runners, claimed a record eighth win in the race.

“We try to give each horse the best chance of winning and ride them all accordingly,” O’Brien said of Serpentine. “This horse made the running last time and was very happy to go forward if nobody else wanted to.”

The winning jockey, Emmet McNamara, hadn’t had a winner since October.

“It was surreal,” he said. “Empty stands and I did not hear a sound from behind me all race.

“I got a little bit of a freebie. Aidan said to go your own tempo, give him a breather and then keep going. He was right.”

Big outsiders also placed, with Khalifa Sat taking second at 50-1 and Amhran Na Bhfiann third at 66-1 to complete a tricast that paid nearly 56,000 pounds ($70,000).

It marked another triumphant day for O’Brien, who saddled the winner of the Oaks hours earlier when 11-10 favorite Love won by nine lengths. That was his eighth winner of the classic for fillies.

The two classics were being staged on the same day as British racing played catch-up after a shutdown of more than three months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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People cycle, walk and sit on the Downs surrounded by the Epsom Downs Racecourse, in Epsom, England, Friday, July 3, 2020. The Derby annual horse race will take place at the Epsom Downs Racecourse behind closed doors on Saturday amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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