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Epsom Derby

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Epsom Derby

Derby Stakes
Group 1 race
The Derby at Epsom, 1821
by Théodore Géricault (1791–1824)
Location Epsom Downs
Epsom, Surrey, England, UK
Inaugurated 1780
Race type Flat / Thoroughbred
Sponsor Investec
Website Epsom Downs
Race information
Distance 1m 4f 10y (2,423 m)
Surface Turf
Track Left-handed
Qualification Three-year-olds
excluding geldings
Weight 9 st 0 lb
Allowances
3 lb for fillies
Purse £1,325,000 (2012)
1st: £751,407.50
Derby, the Paddock (1892)
Isinglass wins the Derby (1893)

The Derby Stakes, popularly known as The Derby, In the United States as the Epsom Derby, and under its present sponsor as the Investec Derby, is a Group 1 flat horse race in England open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is run at Epsom Downs in Surrey over a distance of one mile, four furlongs and 10 yards (2,423 metres), and is scheduled for early June each year.[1]

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 name "Derby" has become synonymous with great races all over the world, and as such has been borrowed many times, notably by the Kentucky Derby. However, the Epsom Derby is the original. It is one of Britain's great national events transcending its own field of interest, and has a huge world-wide TV audience.

In Great Britain the name "Derby" is pronounced [[Help:IPA for English#Key|, while in the United States it is , a case of spelling pronunciation.

History

The Derby originated at a celebration following the first running of the Oaks Stakes in 1779. A new race was planned, and it was decided that it should be named after either the host of the party, the 12th Earl of Derby, or one of his guests, Sir Charles Bunbury. According to legend the decision was made by the toss of a coin, but it is probable that Bunbury, the Steward of the Jockey Club, deferred to his host.[2] The inaugural running of the Derby was held on Thursday 4 May 1780. It was won by Diomed, a colt owned by Sir Charles Bunbury, who collected prize money of £1,065 15s. The first four runnings were contested over 1 mile, but this was amended to the current distance of 1½ miles in 1784. Lord Derby achieved his first success in the event in 1787, with a horse called Sir Peter Teazle.The Derby had previously been run in a more informal manner for many years during the 16th and 17th centuries on the sands at Leasowe, Wallasey, (now Merseyside) which was close to Lord Derby's estate in Knowsley.

The starting point of the race was moved twice during the 19th century. The first move, suggested by [1]

Initially the Derby was run on a Thursday in late May or early June depending on when Easter occurred. In 1838 the race was moved to a Wednesday to fit in with the railways's time tables, but was still run on different dates depending on Easter. In the 20th century, the race was run on the first Wednesday in June from 1900 until 1995 apart from: 1915 to 1918, (during the First World War) when it was on a Tuesday; during the Second World War, from 1942 until 1945 the race was run on a Saturday as it was in the post war years of 1947 to 1950 and again in 1953.[1] In 1995 the day was changed from the first Wednesday in June to the first Saturday,[3] and since then all the races have taken place on that day.

The Derby has been run at Epsom in all years except during the world wars. From 1915 to 1918 and from 1940 to 1945 the Derby was run at Newmarket. These races are known as the 'New Derby'.

The Derby has inspired many similar events around the world. European variations include the Derby Italiano, the Deutsches Derby, the Irish Derby and the Prix du Jockey Club (popularly known in the British Isles as the "French Derby"). Other national equivalents include the Australian Derby, the New Zealand Derby and the Tokyo Yūshun. Several races in the United States include the "Derby" name, including the Kentucky Derby.

Sponsorship

Investec Bank became the sponsor of the Derby in 2009, and the current sponsorship deal runs until 2022.[4] The race was previously backed by Ever Ready (1984–94) and Vodafone (1995–2008).[5]

Epsom Fair

For many years the Derby was run on a Wednesday or a Thursday and on the day huge crowds would come from London, not only to see the race but to enjoy other entertainment (during some of the 19th century and most of the 20th Parliament would adjourn to allow members to attend the meeting).[3][6][7]

By the time that Charles Dickens visited Epsom Downs to view the race in the 1850s, entertainers such as musicians, clowns and conjurers plied their trades and entertained the crowds while others provided other forms of entertainment such as coconut stalls.[8] The crowded meeting was the subject of a painting by William Powell Frith painted in the 1858 and titled The Derby Day, critics have pointed out that the foreground of the painting shows some of the other reasons the crowds came to see the Derby while the racing is relegated to the margins.[9]

In the 1870s, the steam-driven rides were introduced and they were located at the Tattenham Corner end of the grounds and the fair was on for ten days and entertained hundreds of thousands.[8] During the latter half of the 20th century Derby Day became less popular and the race was moved from Wednesday to Saturday in 1995 the hope of reviving the numbers who came to see it.[3] As the number of people attending the fair dwindled its length was reduced from 10 days down to three or four, and in 2009 the fairground was closed to allow the space to be used for other purposes such as car parking.[8]

Popular culture

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