Priding itself on both it’s standout racing and high fashion, the Investec Derby is just over a month away, starting on the 31st of May till the 1st of June.
Of course, racing is at the heart of the festival, but the Derby is well known for its entertainment. Don’t get us wrong, we’ll be watching for the racecourse winners, but it does stand out as having more of a festival vibe than other big events in the racing calendar.
Over the two-day event punters can experience a carnival like atmosphere at The Hill. The family friendly festival even has circus skills classes and a fairground for the kids. Or if you’re a bit more of a rock and roll thrill seeker, check out the skydivers and celeb DJs performing after the racing is over.
Back to the racing… The Lonsdale Enclosure is opposite the Queen’s Stand and next to the Winning Post. If you choose this vantage point, you could be cheering on your favourite from the comfort of an open topped double decker bus, which if you’ve been to the Derby before, you’ll know is all part of the tradition. Don’t worry, there’s plenty more room for buses, with several other enclosures allowing for the best views of the racing action.
The course at Epsom Downs, in Surrey, is home to some of the world’s best flat racing. It’s a Grade 1 Racecourse which has been around since the 1600s. Like many of our racing tales seem to start, this one also involves royalty. With a meeting during the Civil War in 1648 seeing some 600 horses at the event. The following year and until 1660, horseracing was banned, however as soon as the ban was lifted, Epsom was once again home to regular race meetings, with the first recorded race meeting in the country taking place on the 7th of March 1661.
It wasn’t until the late 1700s that the Derby become a premier event in the racing diary, with the most notable race in the course’s history occurring in 1913. Now known as The Suffragette Derby, onlookers were shocked to see suffragette Emily Davison bring down Anmer, the King’s horse as she ran onto the course.
King George V’s horse was brought down after Davison ran under the railings at the side of the course and attempted to grab the bridle of the horse, who came to a crash, throwing rider Herbert Jones off. Four days after the demonstration, Emily died of her injuries on the 8th of June 1913. 6,000 suffragists marched on the day of her funeral, which was attended by 30,000 people in Northumberland.
As well as being the site of historic events such as the above, Epsom has been home to some of the stars of racing history. From Sea-Bird, described as the ‘best Derby winner of the 20th Century’, to the tragic kidnapping of 1981 Derby winner Shergar. More recent notable winners include Australia, who won the 2014 Epsom Derby, bred by Lord Derby from Ouija Board who had previously won the Oaks in 2004.
The Queen has also received a special mention from Derby historian, Michael Church, who notes that she has attended all but two of the festivals since her Coronation. Aside from supporting from the sidelines, the Queen has had ten runners in the race over the years, two winners of the Oaks and was the first reigning monarch to be named British flat race Champion owner twice.
There’s another nod towards the Royal support received by the Derby with the new Queen’s Stand Lawn opening for the first time at this year’s festival.
There you have it, Epsom’s rich history to it’s present day carnival atmosphere. Will you be attending this year? Keep your eye out for Keith’s tips nearer the festival!