| 18.9°C Dublin

Serpentine's stunning Derby raid has the rest of the field seeking answers



O’Brien: Eighth Epsom Derby victory

O’Brien: Eighth Epsom Derby victory

O’Brien: Eighth Epsom Derby victory

Not since Dancing Brave was beaten by Shahrastani in the 1986 Derby have tactics been the subject of so much discussion as they were following the memorable five-and-a-half-length victory by the 25/1 shot Serpentine on Saturday.

Aidan O'Brien's colt, his record eighth winner of the race, made all the running and swung into the home straight 15 lengths clear.

It is probable that when the race shakes itself out, Serpentine, given a superb ride by Emmet McNamara, will prove to be the best horse. However, the perception remains that the jockeys behind McNamara, riding with something of a herd mentality, gave him too great a lead.

The sectional times reveal that they were still spooling out ground to the winner until three furlongs out. However, like a boxer on the ropes in the final round after dominating the first 11, Serpentine was the slowest horse through the last three furlongs, but held on comfortably.

Having slept on it for a night, Frankie Dettori felt he might have been second on English King (fifth, three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up) had he had a better run through the race, but conceded that the winner was a good horse.

"I was trying to put a brave face on it but when Ed (Walker, English King's trainer) said we were drawn one I knew we had a mountain to climb," he said. "He jumped left and I was playing catch-up from there."

Oisín Murphy, who finished fourth on the non-stayer Kameko, conceded that McNamara rode a clever race and that he had been given a bit of a "freebie" in front. "It was apparent coming round Tattenham Corner that the bird might have flown," he said. "If you ask any jockey, if we had our time again would we have tried to sit closer to Serpentine, we possibly would have tried, but none of us were going to make a mid-race manoeuvre, having got into the rhythm of a mile-and-a-half Classic.

"I broke really smart. Kameko is an intelligent horse - it was like he felt like he was still going a mile in the Guineas - so I spent the first 400 metres trying to put the handbrake on. We didn't go that fast along the top, but, on a horse that was stepping up in trip by half a mile, I was keen to conserve as much energy as I could. Obviously I was hoping the horse in front would stop." It was that kind of weekend for the O'Brien family when rivals hope that they would stop - but they never did.

Little more than an hour earlier, Love had been in a class of her own in the Oaks - surging home to land her own Classic double by nine lengths under Ryan Moore, from stablemate Ennistymon. Even the naturally reserved Moore was moved to glowing praise.

"She was exceptional today," he said of the 11/10 favourite. "Almost her best furlong was her last furlong. She's got a great temperament, and I don't think she could have been any more impressive really. You never expect to win an Oaks by that far - it felt like a very long way."

Love may well have booked herself an autumn Arc date with Enable and Ghaiyyath, after both demonstrated their well-being at Sandown yesterday and the latter proved himself top-class once and for all under William Buick. Both Appleby and his vanquished opposite number Gosden subsequently declared themselves delighted.

On his 45th birthday, Appleby said: "We had immense respect for Enable, who I felt lost nothing in defeat - it was a great battle up the straight.

"You don't beat Enable having an easy run, so we'll see where we are over the next week and then decide whether we head to York or whether he needs a bit more time."

After Frankie Dettori had nursed Enable into contention to challenge but not have enough left to get past Ghaiyyath over 1m 2f, Gosden said: "I'm delighted with her. She ran a gorgeous race."

Gosden did have the consolation yesterday of a first French Derby win with Mishriff. But there was still time for the O'Brien clan to have the last word on the weekend's action when Donnacha O'Brien celebrated a first Classic success as a trainer after Fancy Blue beat Alpine Star and his father's Peaceful by a short neck and a head in the French Oaks - one of the few European Classics which hasn't been won by Aidan.

Jessica Harrington's runaway Ascot winner Alpine Star made it an Irish 1-2-3 in a race which had not had an Irish winner for 50 years. It was only the young O'Brien's fourth winner since he started training having quit race-riding because of his weight.

If there was ever any doubt, this weekend confirmed that the O'Briens, for present and future, aren't going anywhere.

© Daily Telegraph, London