The Derby

Derby_at_Epsom_c1820 by Theodore Gericault
Derby at Epsom c1820.    By Theodore Gericault

The Derby is run "on the flat" by, three-year old, thoroughbred horses. It is considered to be one of the most prestigious horse races in the world and is the second leg of the English Triple Crown, preceded by the Two Thousand Guineas Stakes and followed by the St. Leger Stakes. Winners of the Derby often go on to compete in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France or the United States Breeders' Cup.

Photo of Epsom, Derby Day, view from Tattenham Corner 1928, ref. 81596
Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

Epsom, Derby Day, view from Tattenham Corner 1928

In 1779 Sir Charles Bunbury and the 12th Earl of Derby flipped a coin for the privilege of having a new race named after them. The Earl won the toss so the race was called the Derby but it was Bunbury's horse, Diomed, that won the first ever Epsom Derby in 1780 and collected prize money of £1,065 15s. The Earl first won the race named after him in 1787 with a horse called Sir Peter Teazle.

The first four races were over a distance of 1 mile (1.6 km) but this was increased in 1784 to 1 mile and 4 furlongs (1.5 miles or 2.4 km) when the famous Tattenham Corner was added. The 1913 Derby was the setting for a suffragette publicity stunt that ended in the death of Emily Davison (See separate entry). Surprisingly archive newsreel footage exists of both the race and Emily Davison's funeral procession, clips of which can be viewed at Screen Archive South East. During the First World War the race was temporarily moved to Newmarket and the 1915-1918 races were called the New Derby Stakes. Click here for a list of Derby winners.

Photo of Epsom, Derby Day c1955, ref. E37012
Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

Epsom, Derby Day c1955

You may also be interested in the following topics Cicero, Derby Day 1838 and Derby Celebrations 1905. Plase note that this page is part of a longer page on Horse Racing

British Pathe have many images of Epsom Horse Races.
Offical Epsom Downs website

This article was researched and written by Peter Reed, 2006

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