The Derby Stakes, popularly known as The Derby, internationally as the Epsom Derby, is a Group 1 flat horse race in Great Britain open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is scheduled for early June once a year.
It is run at Epsom Downs over a distance of 1 mile, 4 furlongs (a measure of distance in imperial units equal to one-eighth of a mile, equivalent to 220 yards, 660 feet, 40 rods, or 10 chains) and 10 yards. This imperial distance equals a total metric distance of 2,423 metres.
The name Derby has become synonymous with great races all over the world. However, the Epsom Derby is the original. It is one of Britain’s great national events transcending its own field of interest. In Great Britain the name Derby is always pronounced Dahr-bee, while in the USA it is incorrectly rendered as Der-bee.
It is Britain’s richest horse race, and the most prestigious of the country’s five Classics. It is sometimes referred to as the Blue Riband of the turf. The race serves as the middle leg of the Triple Crown, preceded by the 2,000 Guineas and followed by the St Leger, although the feat of winning all three is now rarely attempted.
The race itself has a long and rich history, of which some trivia is quite interesting to note:
- 1805: One of the horses was brought down by a spectator.
- 1825: Winning horse Middleton had never even learnt how to start a race and would never race again.
- 1838: Winning horse Amato had never raced before winning the Derby, and would like the 1823 winner Middleton never race again.
- 1844: The original winner Running Rein was disqualified as he was actually an ineligible four-year-old horse named Maccabeus.
- 1887: The winning horse Merry Hampton wins the Derby without having ever won a race before – to this day it is the last horse to do so.
- 1901: The first year in which a mechanical starting gate was used.
- 1909: Winning horse Minoru was the first Derby winner owned by a reigning monarch, King Edward VII, who had previously won twice as Prince of Wales.
- 1913: The 6/4 favourite Craganour, owned by Charles B. Ismay, brother of J. Bruce Ismay, one the directors of the White Star Line and survivor of the Titanic disaster, was controversially disqualified, the victory was subsequently awarded to the 100/1 outsider Aboyeur. Also, suffragette Emily Davison was tragically struck by King George V’s horse, Anmer, she died three days later.
- 1921: The winner Humorist died two weeks after the race.
- 1953: The horse Pinza wins the race for the jockey Sir Gordon Richards, after 27 unsuccessful attempts.
- 1989: The runner-up Terimon is the longest-priced horse to finish the Derby at odds of 500/1.
- 1996: Alex Greaves became the first (and so far only) lady jockey to ride in the race. She finished last on the filly Portuguese Lil.
- 2008: Jim Bolger, the trainer of the winning horse New Approach, had left the horse entered for the race “by mistake”, having not initially intended to run.