The Epsom Derby is the inspiration for all Derby races across the world including the Irish Derby and Kentucky Derby. It is one of the most prestigious horse races in the world and the unique nature of Epsom racecourse makes it the ultimate test of the thoroughbred. Famous winners include Nijinsky (1970), Mill Reef (1971), Shergar (1981), Nashwan (1989), Galileo (2001) and Sea The Stars (2009).
The Derby is restricted to three-year-old colts and fillies over a mile and a half at Epsom. Fillies usually run in the Epsom Oaks over the same course and distance. The Derby was traditionally staged on the first Wednesday in June but was moved to Saturday in 1995 to attract a wider TV audience. The winning horse will have to be able to cope with the undulations and stay every yard of the trip.
Famous Epsom Derby Winners & History
The Derby was famously named following the toss of a coin between the 12th Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury. The first Derby took place over a mile in 1780 with victory going to Diomed. The race was extended to a mile and a half four years’ later and Lord Derby won it for the first time with Sir Peter Teazle in 1787.
The name Derby has been adopted around the world to denote the top Classic race for three-year-olds. The Derby made the headlines for the wrong reasons in 1913 when suffragette Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King’s horse during the race. The horse was brought down and Davison later died from her injuries.
The roll of honour for the Derby features many of the best known horses in the history of racing. Many regard the French-trained Sea Bird (1965) as one of the finest Derby winners of all time. Nijinsky (1970) became a household name after he completed the English Triple Crown of 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger.
Mill Reef (1971) was another popular winner while the story of Shergar captured the imagination of the wider public in 1981. He romped to a record 10 lengths victory at Epsom in the colours of His Highness The Aga Khan. The colt was retired to stud but was stolen from his stable in Ireland and is believed to have been shot after his syndicate of owners failed to meet a ransom demand.
Key Epsom Derby Trials
The 2000 Guineas remains an influential race on the Epsom Derby betting. Even though it is over a mile, the lure of the Derby has proved irresistible for connections of many Guineas winners over the years. Sea The Stars (2009) and Camelot (2012) won both races while Australia (2014) and Masar (2018) were both placed in the Newmarket Classic before winning at Epsom.
Aidan O’Brien has farmed the Chester trial races, the Chester Vase and the Dee Stakes. Ruler Of The World won the Vase and the Derby in 2013. Wings Of Eagles finished runner-up in the same race prior to winning at Epsom in 2017. Anthony Van Dyck (2019) won the Lingfield Derby Trial prior to his Derby success, the first horse to win both races since High Rise in 1998.
The Dante Stakes at York has been a stepping-stone to Epsom for numerous Derby winners. North Light (2004), Motivator (2005), Authorized (2007) and Golden Horn (2015) all won both races. Workforce was runner-up in the Dante before storming to an impressive 7 lengths win in the Derby.
Epsom Derby Betting Trends
Favourites have a modest recent record in the Epsom Derby with only three winning between 2010 and 2020. There have been some very long priced winners in recent seasons. Aidan O’Brien is not afraid to run several colts here and punters have struggled to identify the pick of them. Wings Of Eagles returned at 40-1 at 2017 and Serpentine was 25-1 in 2020.
Masar returned at 16-1 in 2018, despite having finished third in the 2000 Guineas on his previous start. Terimon started at odds of 500-1 in the 1989 Derby but ran the race of his life to chase home Nashwan. There have been three 100-1 Derby winners, the most recent being Aboyeur in the dramatic 1913 race marred by Emily Davison’s death.
Epsom Derby Stats
One key factor for the Derby is establishing whether a horse will stay a mile and a half. The opinions of the pedigree experts are worth noting for this race as many of the leading contenders will never have raced at this trip. A high percentage of recent Derby winners had been sired by previous winners of this race. Many brilliant 2000 Guineas winners have faded in the closing stages at Epsom.
Most recent Derby winners raced within the previous five weeks. Tactical speed is also vital for the Derby as it is extremely rare for winners to come from far off the pace. Horses that have taken a long time to hit top gear in their trials are likely to struggle on this tricky course.
Top Trainers and Jockeys
Aidan O’Brien is now the most successful trainer in the history of the Derby. Shock winner Serpentine provided him with a record eighth winner in 2020 and his sixth in the space of nine years. His other winners include Camelot who narrowly failed in his attempt to emulate Nijinsky by landing the Triple Crown. He was beaten three-quarters of a length by Encke in the St Leger at Doncaster.
Lester Piggott remains the winning-most jockey in Derby history with nine victories. His first was Never Say Die in 1954 and his last was Teenoso in 1983. Frankie Dettori had to wait until his fifteenth ride in the race before scoring on Authorized (2007). He added a second success on John Gosden’s Golden Horn in 2015.
Betting on the Epsom Derby
Ante-post betting on the Epsom Derby is available all year round. It is the only flat race that competes with the likes of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National in terms of betting turnover. Epsom Derby special betting offers include price boosts for the favourite or enhanced each-way betting terms.
Racebets offered new customers 50-1 to a limited stake about any Aidan O’Brien-trained runner winning in 2017. Wings Of Eagles (40-1) swept past better-fancied stable companion Cliffs of Moher (5-1) to provide an O’Brien one-two. Selected Bookmakers will offer “non-runner – no bet” in the build-up to the Derby so you will not lose your stake if your horse is withdrawn.
The rich history and the excitement of Derby day makes this the one race that every owner, trainer and jockey wants to win. The finest thoroughbreds in Britain and Ireland clash over a mile and a half on Epsom’s twists and turns. There are few more thrilling sights in racing than the Derby field turning into the home straight. It is arguably the highlight of the flat racing season and one not to be missed!