‘I didn’t expect to be sitting here’ – Emmet McNamara on his amazing Derby win with Serpentine


Horse Racing Emmet McNamara Serpentine Epsom Investec Derby

EMMET McNAMARA bossed the Investec Derby from start to finish for an astounding victory on 25-1 shot Serpentine. Here, in his own words, is the jockey’s unforgettable experience at Epsom


I didn’t expect to be sitting here. The only thing I would say in that regard is that Aidan O’Brien filled me with a huge amount of confidence, so it’s not a complete surprise.

I think I got a little bit of a freebie! But Aidan filled me with confidence and said that he is a horse that is going to stay a mile and six furlongs for you well.

He said that if things worked out well, he was one horse who could win the Derby. He instilled that into me and I actually did believe him, because when that man tells you something about a horse, if he tells you that the sky is green, you’d believe him. 

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He said jump, go your own tempo, from halfway after you give him a breather from the six to the five, you keep building to that winning post, he will keep going. God, he was right! 

I could just hear the horse breathing, he was in a good rhythm, he was relaxed. I couldn’t hear a thing around me, I didn’t want to be looking, I wasn’t aware of it, I knew I was a few clear alright. 

I was imagining they were ignoring me a bit …

I knew I wasn’t after going a million miles an hour, so I was imagining they were ignoring me a small bit and I was just hoping that the clock in my own head was working a little bit, because I thought I had saved enough in the first half of the race going up the hill. I didn’t think I had gone mad – I thought I had enough to get home and thankfully I did.

From the five I was stepping up on it a little bit all the way to the line. It’s a difficult camber for an inexperienced horse like that and I probably should have switched my stick into my left hand, but I had visions of ending up in the grandstand if I did that, so I was probably a bit hard on it with my right hand, try to keep him straight, and he just got a little bit unbalanced.

It was my fault – I should have helped the horse a little bit more, given that he’s a balanced horse, by Galileo out of an Oaks second – he’s bred in the purple and he ran all the way to the line. He could run in the Leger. He’s classy.  I couldn’t care less if there was no one here, to be honest.

What makes it feel even more surreal is the empty stands, and that I didn’t hear a horse – I feel like I’m going to wake up after just riding a bit of work or something. It’s a bit unbelievable. 

I’d take 14 months’ quarantine for this!

I have ridden the horse in a few bits of work, but the girl who led him up, does a fantastic job with him riding out, and Aidan is happy enough to leave the people who are doing a fantastic job on them, on them, so the likes of Seamus [Heffernan], Ryan [Moore] and myself just get to sit on them sometimes in work, and then obviously on racedays as well.

There is a background team of staff there who are extremely capable riders and do a fantastic job.

I am not the lightest guy in the world, but thankfully Aidan knows I am riding out every day and I am fit as a fiddle, or I like to think I am, so when a race like this pops up and he has got a few extra runners in it, thankfully he seems to give me a couple of spins. I’m extremely grateful to both him and the owners for showing their faith in me, having not been riding on a consistent basis. 

I would take 14 months’ quarantine for this! Maybe I will watch replays. We’ve got the French Derby tomorrow, so there’s another big day tomorrow hopefully. Seamus and I are flying out this evening and I’m looking forward to riding in three Derbys in a week – it’s crazy stuff, but I’m just delighted to be a part of it. 

Horse Racing Serpentine Epsom Investec Derby
“A bit of a freebie”: Serpentine (Emmet McNamara) wins the Investec Derby at Epsom.
Photo: Racenews

When you are born in racing and you are coming up, you are always dreaming of these races and you think that they are possible.

But it’s only when you actually start riding against these guys, different professionals, that you realise just how hard it is to win the likes of these races, and whatever ability you have, if you don’t get on the horses, you’ve absolutely no chance.

I was lucky I got on the horse – there are a thousand other lads in that weighing room that are far more talented than me, but they didn’t ride Serpentine in the Derby today. I am very lucky to get on him. 

An extremely impressive maiden winner

I was impressed by his performance in his last race [he won a maiden at the Curragh on June 27] and Wayne [Lordan] went a good gallop on him all the way. He clocked a time that was four seconds quicker than the Group 3 on the card, so it was a good performance.

One of my mates, Gary Carroll, had pulled up at the winning line at the racecourse that day and said he ran out to the winning line and nearly out to the board – he said he was an extremely impressive winner of a maiden having gone a good gallop. 

Luckily when you are in Aidan’s, you have the chance of getting on this type of horse at different stages through the years that you are there, so I didn’t think when I pulled up the other day, ‘that’s it, gone forever’ [after narrow defeat in Irish Derby on Tiger Moth].

But there is a sense of, this is a funny year where we’re running horses that we’re not 100% sure where we stand with them, whereas by this time of year normally they might be a bit better sorted out and I might be on a slightly lesser one that isn’t as unexposed as this one coming here today.

I’m sure all my family are roaring the house down

I thought myself a couple of weeks ago that this could possibly be a big year, just with the way things worked out, and that is the way it is after working out – second in an Irish Derby and to win an English is unbelievable.

I can’t imagine it will ever happen again, so I’m going to try to savour it while I can. 

It’s a bit surreal, really. hope my poor old Dad (Eric, a trainer) isn’t after dying of a heart attack! He was extremely proud of me riding in the race today, having spoken to him about 40 times in the past 24 hours – he was on the phone about this, that and the other.

He was obviously delighted I was taking part in it, and I am sure he and Mum are even more proud of me now. I am sure all my family are roaring the house down.

It is unbelievable, a huge amount of thanks and gratitude to Aidan O’Brien and all his family – I have spent a fantastic six years there – and to all the owners who have shown a bit of faith in me today. I really appreciate it.

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