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All you need to know about the Epsom Derby


Epsom Downs on Derby Day

On the 7th June we see the 235th running of the Epsom Derby, it is Britain’s richest horse race with is worth £1.325 million in prize money.
It has been run at the Epsom Downs for all its 235th runnings except for the war years when the race was run at Newmarket.
Run over a distance of one mile, four furlongs and 10 yards, and is scheduled for early June each year. It is a Group 1 flat horse race in England open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies.

The origins of the Derby was in a meeting between the Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury, according to legend it was decided that a major new race would be named by the toss of a coin. The Earl of Derby won and the rest is history.

The first running of the Derby was held in 1780. It was won by Diomed, a colt that was owned ironically by Sir Charles Bunbury, the first four runnings were contested over 1 mile, but this was changed to the current distance of 1½ miles in 1784.

In the 19th century, Derby Day was almost a holiday in London with huge crowds travelling from the Capital, not only for the race but also enjoy all the other entertainment available on the Epsom Downs.

When Charles Dickens visited Epsom Downs in the 1850s he wrote about the numerous entertainers entertaining the crowds.

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The Derby Day by William Powell Firth – 1858 (Victoria and Albert Museum)

A William Powell Frith painting entitled The Derby Day gives a some indication of some of the visitors to the Downs, latter in the 19th century a fair with steam driven rides was a popular attraction.
However in the latter part of the 20th Century, the unofficial holiday for Londoners was curtailed by people having to work, therefore a decision was made in 1995 to move the race from Wednesday to Saturday in 1995.


The modern Derby Day is still a spectacle but the entertainment is centred more around the race itself and the Oaks the day before.
Known as the Investec Derby Festival it has became a mixture of Classic horse racing and Fashion.

Jodie Kidd by Pip for Investec / JSC Sport
Ladies’ Day on Friday culminates with Oaks in which the world’s finest three year old fillies battling it out for £425,000 in prize money.

If you are considering attending the race there is a number of traditions you need to be aware.

Each enclosure on the course will have a ticket price and rules related to dress code.

The most expensive enclosure is the Queen’s Stand,the Queen’s Stand is on the finishing line and above the weighing room with viewing of the Winner’s Circle. You can access the Parade Ring viewing and follow horses all the way to the track before taking up a stop to watch the race on the stepping or the Queen’s Stand Lawn.

Dress code for the Queen’s Stand on Investec Derby Day is:
•Either black or grey morning dress with a top hat, service dress or full national costume is obligatory for gentlemen on Investec Derby Day
•Ladies must wear formal day dress, or a tailored trouser suit, with a hat or substantial fascinator
•Children should be dressed smartly

The next enclosure is the Grandstand, where the Duchess’s Stand is located, provides an relaxed atmosphere to view the racing from the bookmakers’ ring and extensive stepping to take in all the action.

There are also a number of reserved seats for the Investec Derby Festival which you can book with your admission ticket for the day and this will guarantee you a seat for the day.
The Grandstand gives you additional access to the Paddock and Bookmakers’ facilities.

Dress code for the Grandstand is :

•Guests are required to dress up for the Investec Derby Festival
•No sportswear, sleeveless vests, shorts or bare tops
•Smart denim must not have tears or rips
•Guests must not wear sports trainers
•Children should be dressed smartly
Grandstand Hospitality areas on both days
•Gentlemen must wear a jacket, collar, ties are encouraged
•Ladies are asked to wear a fascinator or hat
•Children should be dressed smartly
Fancy dress is not acceptable in the Queen’s Stand or Duchess’s Stand during the Investec Derby Festival.

If you are looking for a less formal enclosure you have the following :

The Family Enclosure On The Hill is a relatively new enclosure designed to provide families with the opportunity to enjoy the renowned atmosphere of the Downs in a safe, family friendly environment.

Opposite the main stands the Lonsdale Enclosure is the grass enclosure where you can get right up the rails to see the horse thunder past.  This is a very popular enclosure as you’re right in front of the all the action in the stands.
Food and drink for own consumption can be taken into this area

Another enclosure is the Upper Tattenham Enclosure.  With a trackside view all the way down to the pivotal Tattenham Corner, betting facilities and opportunity see the event in front of you it represents excellent value.
Food and drink for own consumption can be brought into this area.

Ticket prices

Queen’s Stand £99
Grandstand (Duchess’s Stand) £50
Grandstand Reserved Seating – An additional £65
Lonsdale Enclosure – £30
The Upper Tattenham Enclosure – £25
Family Enclosure – £15

For more information and to book tickets, visit the Epsom Racecourse website here .

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