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  Saturday, 2 June, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
The Epsom Derby uncovered
A good position at the start is crucial at Epsom
A good position at the start is crucial at Epsom
BBC Sport Online's Steve Cresswell brings you a guide to how the Epsom Derby got its name, distance, entrants and why it is held at Epsom.


The history

The Epsom Derby was first run in 1780 and was won by Sir Charles Bunbury's horse Diomed.

Even during both world wars the event continued to be staged.

Lester Piggott is the Derby's most successful jockey
Lester Piggott is the Epsom Derby's most successful jockey

Lester Piggott is undoubtedly the jockey with the best record in the race, boasting nine victories to his name.

His first Epsom Derby success came aboard Never Say Die in 1954 and the last 29 years later, on Teenoso.

Frankie Dettori is perhaps the best known of the current breed of jockeys who are yet to win the premier Epsom Classic.

The name

Lord Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury initiated the idea for the race before tossing a coin to see who the race was named after.

Needless to say who won, and Derby had good reason to celebrate after his horse, Bridget, won the first Oaks in 1779, a year before the first Epsom Derby.

Bunbury can at least claim the first Epsom Derby winner though with Diomed.

The distance

With the Oaks having preceded the Derby the latter eventually followed suit by racing over the same mile-and-a-half distance.

However, the first four races were contested over a dog-leg mile.

The course

Why does Epsom host the Derby, rather than Newmarket or Ascot you may ask?

Well, when Bunbury and Derby were coming up with the concept of the race they were staying in a house opposite the Epsom Downs called Deardans.

The story has it that on seeing the Downs they believed them to be the perfect setting for the race.

The field

Bunbury and Derby conceived the idea of a race in a bid to establish the best horse of its generation.

And as a battle of three-year-olds it keeps it in line with other Classics such as the Oaks, and both the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas.

The Epsom Derby was created as an equivalent to the Oaks, whose field is made up only of fillies, and while the Derby is almost exclusively contested by colts, fillies are not excluded.

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Links to more Epsom Derby stories are at the foot of the page.


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