The Investec Derby Festival at Epsom Downs is amongst the most valuable festivals of the United Kingdom horse racing season. It includes two of the Classic races, the Epsom Oaks and the Epsom Derby - currently known was the Investec Oaks and the Investec Derby after their corporate sponsor - making it a two-day meeting no serious racing fan can afford to miss.
The first day of the Investec Derby Festival features a host of prestigious races, including the Investec Coronation Cup, the Investec Challenge Heritage Handicap and race three of the British Classics series - the Investec Oaks. The Oaks was inaugurated in 1779, one year before the Epsom Derby. It is open to thoroughbred fillies aged three and runs over a distance of one mile, four furlongs and ten yards. It is one of the most anticipated races of the season, not only for its importance in the Classics series, but also for its action and often surprising outcomes.
The second day of the Festival finally ends the anxiety usually surrounding the imminent running of the Epsom Derby. Although the Derby is without question the feature race of the event, the day also offers the Princess Elizabeth Stakes and the Sir Clement Freud Memorial Stakes, which are valuable races of great interest to contenders and punters alike.
The Derby at Epsom is special in many ways. Naturally, it is part of the Classics Series, which makes it interesting for anyone infatuated with traditional Flat racing. The Epsom Derby can be watched for free. Yes, indeed, you read this correctly. Because the land between Epsom, Tadworth and Langley Vale is a public area, the race can be attended free of charge (unless you want to be admitted to the Grandstand or an expensive enclosure). Due to its affordability - being absolutely free - the Derby at Epsom was for a long time the most attended event of the racing calendar. While it is still free, it is next to impossible to get a good view from the usually cramped free section. However, there is no harm in trying. The Investec Derby is run over a distance of one mile, four furlongs and ten yards, and is open to three-year-old thoroughbreds of both sexes. It has been staged continuously since 1780 and has had varying numbers of starters in each run - the fewest starters being four, the largest number of competitors thirty-four. The current speed record at the Investec Derby is held by 1995's winner Lammtarra, who raced the distance in 2:32.31.
The Oaks was introduced a year before the Derby, and was named after the Earl's estate of the same title. In much the same way as Charles Bunbury, Lord Derby's horse, Bridget, won the inaugural event, yet it would be the only time he would claim such a victory. The race is open to three-year-old fillies, and it is considered the third of the five "Classic" British races.Coronation Cup
The youngest of the festival's famous races, the Coronation Cup was created in honour of King Edward VII's coronation. The event is run over the same distance as both the Epsom Derby and Epsom Oaks, and, since it is open to all thoroughbreds aged four years and older, the field is usually made up of competitors from the previous year's Derby and Oaks events.