A Clear Guide to the Epsom Derby

The Epsom Derby is a Group 1 flat race for three-year-old horses that is run at Epsom Downs in early June every year. It is one of five English Classic races that, together with the 2000 Guineas and St Leger Stakes, forms the Triple Crown. The Derby is considered the most prestigious of the English Classics and is the richest horse race in the United Kingdom with a purse of around one and a half a million pounds.

A Closer Look at this
Classic Race

Also known as the Derby Stakes, this race is open to only qualifying, Group 1 fillies and colts that are 3 years of age. Each is required to carry 9-0 stones or 126 pounds.

Like the Oaks Stakes race which is only open to fillies, the Derby spans one and a half miles long and is run on the turf of the famous Epsom Downs racetrack. The track itself is left-handed requiring the runners to turn left before entering the home straight.

fact file

location: Epsom Downs, Surrey

grade: Group 1 colts and fillies

race type: Flat horse race on turf

Historic Moments of the Epsom Derby

The Epsom Derby is the second leg of the Triple Crown, run after the 2000 Guineas and before the St Leger. The race was first run in 1780 and has been an important part of the UK racing calendar ever since. The Epsom Derby is the original "Derby" race and there are now versions of the race in a number of countries around the world including the Kentucky Derby and the Victoria Derby.

Famous winners include Nijinsky (1970), Mill Reef (1971), Troy (1979), Shergar (1981), Galileo (2001), Sea the Stars (2009), Workforce (2010), and Camelot (2012). Because of its history, quality fields and pageantry, the Epsom Derby is one of the most popular horse races in the world.

Listed below are the past winners from 2007 to 2017. Currently, the total purse is worth over one and a half million. The top prize awards just over half of the purse and continues to grow. In 1780, the first prize amounted to only £1128.75, whereas, the 2017 winner was recently awarded £921,538.

Records

As the richest horse race in the United Kingdom, the Epsom Derby always draws a very strong field and thus has been won by some of the greatest 3-year-old thoroughbreds in history (as of 2017).

  • The fastest time on record is 2 minutes and 31.33 seconds set by Workforce in 2010.

  • Robert Robson, John Porter and Fred Darling are the most successful trainers in Epsom Derby history, with seven winners each.

  • The thoroughbreds that managed to beat the longest odds (100 to 1) in the history of the race was Aboyeur in 1913, Signorinetta in 1908 and Jeddah in 1898.

  • Shergar won by the largest margin of 10 lengths in 1981.

Best Moments

Amid the record holders for the Epsom Derby, one rider's name remains on top - Lester Piggott (as of 2017).

jockey racing horse
  • Considered one of the greatest flat-race jockeys with 4493 wins over a span of 46 years, Lester Piggott still holds the record for most Derby wins. He rode nine winners in the race from 1954 to 1983.

  • He won his first race in 1948, then only 12 years old, kicking off a legendary career crowned by the most recent Triple Crown victory in modern times. This most famous victory was on Nijinsky, who claimed the Triple Crown in 1970 and was the last horse to have done so.