The Ultimate Guide to Epsom Racecourse

EpsomEpsom Racecourse is situated on a range of chalk ridges, known as the North Downs, which crosses the county of Surrey in southern England. The history of racing at Epsom can be traced back to 1779, with the inaugural running of the Oaks, named after the Earl of Derby's estate in Carshalton. The Oaks was confined to 3-year-old fillies, but proved so popular that the following year a race for 3-year-old colts and fillies was added. The Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury, a Jockey Club steward and close friend, tossed a coin to decide the title of the race, which became the Derby. Initially, the Derby was run over a straight mile and the downhill turn into the straight, known as Tattenham Corner, didn't come into being until 1784, when the distance was extended to a mile and a half.

For racegoers, Epsom Racecourse offers a choice of five enclosures, known as the Queen's Stand, the Grandstand, the Lonsdale Enclosure, the Upper Tattenham Enclosure and the Family Enclosure. On Derby Day, admission prices range from £10 for the Family Enclosure to £99 for the Queen's Stand, with concessions for groups, senior citizens and students. Admission is free for accompanied children.

For conferences, exhibitions, meetings and other corporate events, Epsom Racecourse offers a range of rooms and suites capable of accommodating between 10 and 800 delegates. In fact, the Duchess's Stand and Queen's Stand are purpose built conference centres, offering floor spaces ranging from 12,000 square feet to 2,000 square feet, all with state of the art facilities and balconies overlooking Epsom Downs and the City of London.

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Getting there

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What's unique about the course at Epsom?

Epsom Guide
Epsom is left-handed and roughly the shape of a horseshoe, a mile and a half in extent. The Derby course rises throughout the first four furlongs before levelling out for two furlongs and descending around Tattenham Corner into a four furlong straight.

The straight five furlong course runs sharply downhill to its junction with the round course and is considered one of the fastest in the world. The bends, camber and undulations of Epsom means that it is often better suited to handy, nimble horses than to long striding horses. In sprint races, the ability to break quickly is paramount.


Notable Races and Events

ShergarThe name of Epsom Racecourse is, of course, synonymous with the Derby, but the Derby Festival, which takes place on the first weekend in June, also includes the Oaks, the Coronation Cup and the Epsom Dash.

One of the most infamous incidents in the history of the Derby took place at Tattenham Corner in 1913, when militant suffragette Emily Wilding Davison climbed beneath the running rail and threw herself under Anmer, owned by King George V. The force of the impact took Davison clean off the ground and, although she was taken to Epsom Cottage Hospital, she never regained consciousness and died a few days later from internal injuries.

The longest priced winners of the Derby were Jeddah in 1898, Signorinetta in 1908 and Aboyeur in 1913, who all started at 100/1. The shortest priced winner was Ladas in 1894, who went off 2/9 favourite.

The largest winning margin in the Derby was recorded by Shergar, owned by the Aga Khan, trained by Sir Michael Stoute and ridden by 19-year-old Walter Swinburn, in 1981. Shergar produced a breathtaking display to win the Derby by 10 lengths and, having also won the Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, was retired to stud for a record valuation of £10 million. However, early in his stud career Shergar was kidnapped from the Ballymany Stud by masked gunmen, presumed to be IRA terrorists and reported dead shortly afterwards. No-one has admitted the kidnapping and no corpse has ever been found.

GodolphinThe most successful jockey in the history of the Derby is Lester Piggott. “The Long Fellow”, as Piggott is affectionately known, won his first Derby on Never Say Die in 1954, as an 18-year-old and his last on Teenoso in 1983, at the age of 47. In between, he also won on Crepello in 1957, St. Paddy in 1960, Sir Ivor in 1968, Nijinsky in 1970, Roberto in 1972, Empery in 1976 and The Minstrel in 1977, taking his total tally of Derby wins to nine.

Top Owners, Jockeys and Trainers

David Probert is the leading jockey at Epsom during the last five seasons with 13 winners from 55 rides, although he is just one ahead of a group of jockeys, headed by Neil Callan, who have ridden 12 winners in that period. Godolphin is the leading owner with 11 winners from 55 runners although, once again, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and Dr. Marwan Koukash are not far behind with 9 winners from 74 runners and 8 winners from 37 winners. Richard Hannon is the leading trainer at Epsom with 19 winners from 129 runners over the last five seasons.

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