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The Investec Derby is a Group 1 race, open to three-year-old colts and fillies, run at Epsom, over a distance of 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 10 yards. It is, not only, the world's greatest flat race, but the oldest continually run sporting event in the world.
In its wake, more than 140 races world-wide have adopted the title Derby. Throughout its 233 years, The Derby, now sponsored by Investec, has enjoyed a colourful history, some of which is listed below.
The Foundation of the Derby and Oaks
At the Epsom May Meeting in 1778, Lord Derby invited a party of friends to his house, The Oaks, where it was proposed, that a single race over 1½ miles, for three-year-old fillies, would add some spice to the meeting the following year. The race was named after Lord Derby’s house and first run on 14 May 1779.
Appropriately, the race was won by Lord Derby’s Bridget, the well backed favourite and, was considered a great success. As a result, another new race for both colts and fillies was planned for the following year.
Legend has it that the 12th Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury (the leading figure in the Jockey Club, who was staying at the Oaks) spun a coin as to whether the race should be called the Derby or, the Bunbury Stakes. The first running of the Derby Stakes was over a mile and although Lord Derby won the toss of the coin, it was Sir Charles Bunbury who owned the first winner – Diomed.
Towards the end of the 18th century, Derby Day had established itself, not only as a major sporting event, but also ‘the Londoner’s day out’, with or without their employers’ consent. The fascination of Derby Day attracted the aristocracy and the workman equally, shoulder to shoulder for the day, and the flow of ready money proved a magnet to both, while in pursuit of a good time.
View the full 1780-2012 Roll of Honour here.
Click here for more from our Official Derby Historian, Michael Church.