Everything You Need to Know About the Epsom Derby

The Epsom Derby is among the world's most prestigious horse racing events.

Epsom Derby

The Epsom Derby, often simply referred to as The Derby or the Derby Stakes, is one of the world's most prestigious horse racing events. It is a cornerstone of the British flat racing season, held annually on the first Saturday of June at Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, England.

Established in 1780 by the 12th Earl of Derby, it is the richest and most renowned of the five Classics of the British flat racing season, including the 2000 Guineas, the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks, and the St Leger.

History and tradition

The Derby's origins date back to a coin toss between the Earl of Derby and his friend Sir Charles Bunbury to determine who the race would be named after. Over the years, the Derby has become a cultural icon, drawing royalty, celebrities, and racing enthusiasts from around the globe. Its long history has seen many legendary horses, jockeys, and trainers.

In recent years, the Derby has continued to evolve, adapting to the modern era while maintaining its rich traditions. It remains a focal point on the global racing calendar, attracting entries from top international stables. The race is also a significant betting event, drawing millions in wagers worldwide.

The Derby became the world's first outdoor sporting event to be televised in 1931.

Inspiring others

The race has inspired many other races and global variations, including the Irish Derby, the Kentucky Derby, the Derby Italiano, the Australian Derby and the Prix du Jockey Club (the French Derby).

The race itself

The race is open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies and is run over 1 mile, 4 furlongs, and 10 yards (approximately 2,420 metres). The Epsom course is renowned for its challenging nature, featuring undulating terrain, a steep downhill run, and the iconic Tattenham Corner, which requires both skill and courage from jockeys and horses alike.

Notable winners and records

The Derby has produced numerous legendary winners who have left an indelible mark on horse racing history. Some of the most famous include:

  • Shergar (1981): Known for his extraordinary winning margin of 10 lengths, one of the largest in the race's history.
  • Nijinsky (1970): The last horse to win the English Triple Crown (2000 Guineas, Derby, and St Leger) in the same year.
  • Sea The Stars (2009): Hailed as one of the greatest racehorses of all time, he also won the 2000 Guineas and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the same year.

Lester Piggott, one of the most famous jockeys in history, holds the record for the most Derby wins, with nine victories spanning from 1954 to 1983.

The Derby is more than just a horse race; it is a social and cultural event, epitomising the British social season. Epsom Downs transforms into a vibrant spectacle with a diverse crowd ranging from aristocrats and celebrities to families enjoying a day out.

The event is known for its unique atmosphere, combining high fashion, tradition, and the thrill of top-class horse racing.

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