The Derby: Horse & Hound’s ultimate A-Z of the famous race

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  • From suffragettes to royal runners, Horse & Hound takes you through all you need to know about the Investec Derby meeting at Epsom, with the big race tomorrow (3 June) at 4.30pm

    A…is for AIRBORNE.

    The 1946 winner was the most recent of just four grey Derby winners. Of the 236 winners (including one dead-heat), 173 were brown or bay, 57 chestnut, four grey and just two registered as black.

    B …is for BUNBURY.

    The name the Derby might have been given. In 1780 a coin was tossed between the 12th Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury to decide after whom the famous race would be named.

    C …is for CLASSIC.

    The blue riband of turf Flat racing, the Derby is Britain’s richest horse race and the most prestigious of the five Classic races. It is also the middle leg of the English Triple Crown, following the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and before the St Leger held at Doncaster.

    D …is for EMILY DAVISON.

    The militant suffragette sustained fatal injuries when stepping out in front of the King George V’s horse, Anmer, on Tattenham Hill during the Derby in 1913.

    E …is for EPSOM.

    The Derby has been held at Epsom Downs racecourse every year since 1780, except for two wartime periods totalling 10 years when it was staged at Newmarket (between 1915-18 and 1940-45).

    F …is for FRANKIE DETTORI.

    The popular jockey stormed to victory in the Derby in 2015 aboard the John Gosden-trained Golden Horn, who has now retired from racing and is standing at Dalham Hall Stud. Frankie also won on Authorized in 2007.

    G …is for ALEX GREAVES.

    In 1996, Alex became the first lady jockey to ride in the race when finishing at the back of the 20 runners, partnering Portuguese Lil — a 500-1 chance trained by her husband Dandy Nicholls.

    H …is for DEAD-HEAT.

    In 1828, the Derby was declared a dead-heat. A run-off was then held with Cadland winning from The Colonel by half a length. Another dead-heat occurred in 1884, when Harvester and St Gatien shared the title.

    I …is for INVESTEC.

    The title sponsor of the Derby Festival at Epsom — it is one of the biggest sponsorship agreements in British horse racing. In 2012 Investec agreed to a 10-year extension as the race sponsor.

    J …is for JIM BOLGER.

    The trainer of the 2008 Derby winner New Approach had left the horse entered for the race apparently by mistake — having not initially intended to run him.

    K …is for KHAMASEEN.

    The horse provided Lester Piggott with his 38th and final Derby ride in 1994. The then 58-year-old grandfather finished fifth behind Erhaab aboard the John Dunlop-trained horse, but had won the Derby nine times previously.

    L …is for LADIES’ DAY.

    The time for the female racegoers to don a posh frock, Ladies’ Day takes place on today (Friday, 2 June) — the day of the Investec Oaks.

    M …is for MINORU.

    The 1909 winner continues to hold the title for the only Derby victor to be owned by a ruling monarch when winning for King Edward VII.

    N …is for NIJINSKY.

    Bred in Canada, but trained in Ireland, he became the first horse in 35 years to claim the English Triple Crown — winning the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the St Leger in 1970.

    O …is for O’BRIEN.

    Aidan and his son Joseph — now a trainer — became the first father-son combination to win the Derby with Camelot in 2012. They repeated the feat when winning again with Australia in 2014.

    P …is for PRIZE MONEY.

    In 1780, Diomed ran for a purse of £1,065 and 15 shillings when winning the inaugural Derby. This year’s race carries a total prize-fund of £1.325m.


    Her Majesty, an avid racing follower, rarely misses the Derby. Her first runner in the race was 1953, although she is yet to field the winner.


    Considered the most successful British jockey of all time, Sir Gordon won the Derby on his 28th and final ride in the race, when partnering Pinza to beat The Queen’s horse Aureole in 1953.


    Owners can pay the necessary £75,000 to add their horse to the Derby field at the final entry stage on 30 May. The 2015 victor Golden Horn was supplemented for this amount by his owner Anthony Oppenheimer. The first winning horse to take advantage of the supplementary entry stage was Kris Kin in 2003.


    The first Derby to be broadcast on the BBC was in 1927. This year, ITV will host the action for the for the first time since 1988. Coverage will start at 1.30pm today and tomorrow.

    U …is for UNDULATIONS.

    Epsom is renowned for varied ground throughout the entire 1m 4f course and the horses and jockeys have to cope with a significant camber. The famous Tattenham Corner is the final bend and a tight one at that — it drops around 100ft onto the home straight, until a furlong from the finish where the ground rises again.

    V …is for CAPE VERDI.

    The 1000 Guineas winner is the last filly to have run in the Derby — she finished ninth in 1998. Just six fillies have won the race, the most recent being Fifinella in 1916.

    W …is for WORKFORCE.

    Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, he recorded the fastest time in the history of the Derby at Epsom, winning the race in 2min 31.33sec in 2010.

    X …is for JOHN OXX.

    The Irish trainer was triumphant when saddling his first runner in the Derby in 2000, when Sinndar came home in front.

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    Y …is for the YOUNGEST JOCKEY.

    John Parsons was believed to be just 16 when he won the Derby in 1862 aboard Caractacus. The oldest winning jockey to date was John Forth, aged 60 when victorious on Frederick in 1829.

    Z …is for ZUCCHERO.

    The name of Lester Piggott’s first ride in the Derby in 1951 — he was just 15 years old. They were unplaced on that occasion, but returned to Epsom in 1953, with Lester in the saddle, to win the Coronation Cup.

    Don’t miss our full report from the Derby in the 15 June issue of Horse & Hound magazine

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