A comprehensive overview of The Derby, one of the most popular Flat horse races in the English racing season that is also a Triple Crown race and which is run annually in June at Epsom Downs Racecourse.
The Derby, sponsored by Investec, is a Group 1 flat horse race for three-year-old colts and fillies run over a mile and four furlongs at Epsom in early June. First, run in 1780, the Derby is Britain’s richest race and one of the most prestigious and important in the world.
Most racing countries stage a version of the Derby, based loosely on the Epsom original. The Derby forms the middle part of the Triple Crown, which also includes the 2,000 Guineas and St Leger.
The 2010 race will be run on Saturday, June 5.
History of the Epsom Derby
The Derby was named after the 12th Earl of Derby and run over a mile until 1784 when it was extended to a mile and a half when Tattenham Corner was introduced. The Derby has been won by many great champions including West Australian (1853), Ormonde (1886), Bahram (1935), and Nijinksy (1970) – four of the 15 horses who won the race en route to winning the Triple Crown.
Other horses to have made their mark in the Derby are Hyperion (1933), Sea-Bird (1965), Sir Ivor (1968), and Shergar, whose ten-length winning margin in 1981 is the biggest in the history of the race. Modern-day greats to have won the race include Galileo (2001), New Approach (2008), and Sea The Stars (2009).
Three trainers have won the Derby a record seven times: Robert Robson, John Porter, and Fred Darling. The legendary Vincent O’Brien won the race six times (1962, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1977, 1982). Lester Piggott is the most successful jockey in the Derby, having won the race nine times (1954, 1957, 1960, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1976, 1977, 1983).
On his 28th and final attempt, Sir Gordon Richards recorded his only Derby win on Pinza in 1953. Traditionally run on Wednesday, that race was run for the first time on Saturday, to avoid a clash with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and switched permanently to that day from 1995.
Organised racing at Epsom, on the Surrey Downs to the south of London, dates back to 1661. The foundations for the modern sport were laid in 1779 when Edward Smith Stanley, the 12th Earl of Derby, organised a race for himself and his friends to race their three-year-old fillies over one and a half miles. He named it the Oaks after his estate and the race was such a success that the following year, 1780, a new race was added for colts and fillies. The title of the new race was decided after the Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury flipped a coin – the Earl won and so began the inaugural running of the Derby, which was won by Sir Charles Bunbury’s horse Diomed.
The Oaks and the Derby eventually became two of the five Classic races in Britain and made Epsom Downs one of the most famous racecourses in the world. The left-handed, horseshoe-shaped course is a major test of both horse and jockey, with its stiff climb from the mile-and-a-half start, followed by a rapid, turning descent around Tattenham Corner into the straight, where the camber pushes horses in towards the running rail.
As well as the Derby and Oaks, which are held in early June, Epsom also stages the Group 1 Coronation Cup at the same meeting. The racecourse is also famed for its five-furlong straight track, which is downhill and supremely fast.
Visit the Racing Post for a complete list of UK Race Courses.
- The largest Derby field was 34 in 1862 and the smallest just four in 1794. There is now a safety limit of 20 for the race.
- In 1992 Dr. Devious, trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam, became the first Derby winner to have run in the Kentucky Derby.
- Six fillies have won the Derby. Eleanor became the first in 1801 and Fifinella was the last in 1916. Cape Verdi (1998) was the last filly to run in the race.
- The only dead-heat occurred in 1884 when the judge could not separate Harvester and St Gatien.
- There have been three 100-1 winners of the Derby: Jeddah (1896), Signorinetta (1908), and Aboyeur (1913).
- In 1895 the Derby was the first horse race to be filmed.
- In 1913 suffragette Emily Davison threw herself in front of King George V’s horse Anmer, bringing him down. Davison’s skull was fractured and she died four days later.
Additional Derby Resources
- Epsom Downs Racecourse – the official site of the racecourse.
- Epsom Derby on Wikipedia – the race on the free encyclopedia, includes a complete list of past winners.
- Derby Stakes Pedigree – pedigree information on the winners of the race by the Thoroughbred Database.
- Horse Racing Cards – You can find racing cards for The Derby and other UK races at the RP.
- 1,000 Guineas – My WikiNut article on the Newmarket 1000 Guineas horse race