Epsom Derby & Oaks: Betting Tips, Stats & History

Epsom Racecourse Straight and Grandstands

The Derby and The Oaks are two of Britain’s most iconic races. They take place at Epsom racecourse, which also just so happens to be one of the most iconic racecourses in Britain. In fact, The Derby is the richest race in the UK, signalling just how important it is to British horseracing.

The two races are featured over two days of top class racing at Epsom. They pull in huge crowds across both days and with it the racecourse is able to function finically pretty much all year round. 

Epsom Derby Festival Betting Tips for 2018

The first weekend in June means Derby Day at Epsom, arguably Britain's most prestigious flat race. The two-day meeting hosts two Classics, The Derby and The Oaks, and a further Group 1 contest, the Coronation Cup.

RaceTimeDay & DateTip
Coronation Cup 15:10 Friday June 1st 2018 Cracksman
Epsom Oaks 16:30 Friday June 1st 2018 Forever Together
Epsom Derby 16:30 Saturday June 2nd 2018 Saxon Warrior

The Course

Epsom Racecourse

The racecourse at Epsom is only open from April through to October and takes advantage of the summer flat season. It measures just 1m 4f 10 yards in length, but has been designed and tailored to produce a really tough test for the horse that do take part. It’s worth noting that both The Derby and The Oaks are both run from the longest part of the track, with each race being measured as 1m 4f 10 yards in length.

The track is a left-handed course, which makes it a little tougher for most horses as the majority will be used to more traditional right handed tracks. The U-shaped course (Tattenham corner) means that the tight bend acts as a bit of s slingshot and definitely favours horses that are running prominently, rather than those labouring at the back. Interestingly, the last 5 furlongs are downhill and when set up as just a 5f course, it’s widely regarded as the fastest in the world. 

But, the added speed does add its challenges for the horse as running downhill can actually hinder them due to the fact that it means it’s possible the horses could miss a stride. But, as both the Derby and the Oaks take advantage of the full course, the first 4 furlongs are actually all uphill and provide a very tough test in terms of stamina, especially when the ground is soft. Many races in the past have been decided over these first 4 furlongs, such is the severity of them. 

The better ground is often found on the stand side and whilst the length of the race means that the draw isn’t really a factor, it will mean that horses will need to get into positon quickly if they are looking to challenge come the back straight. 

The Oaks

The Oaks is run on the Friday of the 2-day meeting and is seen as the warm up for the Derby the following day. But, the race has massive significance in the horse racing industry and is one of the most high-profile races for 3-year-old fillies anywhere in the world. 

The Oaks is third of the five classics, running after the Guineas. A massive race on its own, it’s also stepping stone for horses that have taken on the 1,000 Guineas with the St Leger to follow later in the year. The three races together are known as the Fillies Triple Crown. 

The prizemoney for the race sits at £500,000, with first place being awarded £283,550 of the total purse. 

Oaks Day

Whilst the Oaks is undoubtedly the highlight of the opening day of the mini-festival, it also hosts another Group 1 race in the form of the Coronation Cup. This race has become another massive race in the UK horse racing calendar, offering up a prize pool of £420,000. The race includes horses aged 4-years and up and often features horses that have competed in the Derby or the Oaks in previous years. There is also the listed Surrey Stakes amongst five other top races. 

Full Oaks Day Schedule – 1st June 2018

TimeRace NameGradeDistancePrize Fund
2:00 Woodcote EBF Stakes Class 2 6 furlongs £60,000
2:35 Investec Mile Handicap Class 2 1 mile, 1⁄2 furlong £50,000
3:10 Coronation Cup Group 1 1 mile, 4 furlongs £420,000
3:45 Wealth Investment Handicap Class 2 1 mile, 2 furlongs £60,000
4:30 The Oaks Group 1 1 mile, 4 furlongs £500,000
5:15 Surrey Stakes Class 1, Listed 7 furlongs £50,000
5:50 Zebra Handicap Class 2 7 furlongs £50,000

The Derby

Whilst many people would say that the Oaks and the Derby are on an equal level when it comes to the prestige of each race, in reality, the Derby has to be the bigger of the two. The fact that the prizemoney from this race is £1,500,000, making it the biggest purse of any race in the UK highlights this fact. The winner of the race is set to pick up a cheque worth £850,650. Not too shabby for a few minutes work!

The Derby is held on the Saturday and is one of the most watched races in the world. The race has been running since 1780 and with it has been able to attract huge crowds to Epsom Downs racecourse as a result. The race is open to 3-year-old fillies, thoroughbred and colts, meaning it attracts a host of the world’s best flat racing horses. 

Just the like the Oaks, the Derby is part of its own Triple crown including the 2,000 Guineas and the St Leger. It’s also one of the 5 classics that takes place around the world. 

Derby Day

The Saturday, or Derby Day as it’s often referred to, is dominated by the big race itself. There are six other races though incuding the Group 3 contests, the Princess Elizabeth Stakes and the Diomed Stakes. There's also the popular Epsom Dash, a large field handicap over the minumum 5 furlong trip. 

Full Derby Day Schedule – 2nd June 2018

TimeRace NameGradeDistancePrize Fund
2:00 Private Banking Handicap Class 2 1 mile, 2 furlongs £50,000
2:35 Princess Elizabeth Stakes Group 3 1 mile, 1⁄2 furlong £90,000
3:10 Diomed Stakes Group 3 1 mile, 1⁄2 furlong £90,00
3:45 Epsom Dash Class 2 5 furlongs £100,000
4:30 The Derby Group 1 1 mile, 4 furlongs £1,500,000
5:15 Out Of The Ordinary Handicap Class 2 1 mile, 4 furlongs £50,000
5:50 Asset Management Handicap Class 2 6 furlongs £50,000

Statistics

The Derby

There is one jockey who has dominated the Derby like no other over the years and this man comes in the form of the great, Lester Piggott. Piggott went on to win no fewer than 9 Derby’s, with his first in 1954 on Never Say Die and his last in 1983 on Teenoso. 

The trainer stakes and much more even, with 3 trainers being tied at the top with 7 wins a piece. These include Robert Robson, John Porter and Fred Darling. The trio unfortunately never really raced in the same era as each other, so it’s tough to say which is the best from the three, with each having iconic horses of their own generation. 

In more recent times it’s been Aidan O’Brien has been the standout trainer, winning 4 out the last 6 Derby’s since 2012. The jockey stakes have been pretty spread out, but do include the likes of Frankie Dettori, Ryan Moore, Martin Dwyer and Kieren Fallon, to name just a few. 

Most Successful Epsom Derby Trainers and Jockeys

TrainersJockeys
NameWinsFirst - LastNameWinsFirst - Last
Fred Darling 7 1922 – 1941 Lester Piggott 9 1954 - 1983
John Porter 7 1868 - 1899 Steve Donoghue 6 1915 - 1925
Robert Robson 7 1793 - 1823 Jem Robinson 6 1817 - 1836
Aidan O'Brien 6 2001 - 2017 Fred Archer 5 1877 - 1886
Vincent O'Brien 6 1962 - 1982 Bill Clift 5 1793 - 1819
Mathew Dawson 6 1860 - 1895 Frank Buckle 5 1792 - 1823
Frank Neale 6 1782 - 1804 John Arnull 5 1784 - 1807
Sir Michael Stoute 5 1981 - 2010 Willie Carson 4 1979 - 1994
John Scott 5 1835 - 1853 Charles Smirke 4 1934 - 1958
James Edwards 5 1811 - 1836 John Watts 4 1887 - 1896
Dixon Boyce 5 1805 - 1828 Bill Scott 4 1832 - 1843
Richard Prince 5 1795 - 1819 Tom Goodison 4 1809 - 1822
      Sam Arnull 4 1780 - 1798

The fastest winning time in the Derby came about in 2010, when Workforce managed to complete the track in just 2m 31.33s. The widest winning margin was that of Shergar in 1981 and the fewest runners to have ever raced in the Derby was back in 1794, with just 4. The longest odds winners have been at 100/1 and have included Jeddah (1898) Signrinetta (1908) and Aboyeur (1913). 

Fastest Recorded Epsom Derbys

HorseYearTimeAverage SpeedGoing
Workforce 2010 2 mins 31.33 secs 35.68 mph Good to Firm
Lamtara 1995 2 mins 32.31 secs 35.45 mph Good to Firm
Golden Horn 2015 2 mins 32.32 secs 35.45 mph Good to Firm
Wings Of Eagles 2017 2 mins 33.02 secs 35.29 mph Good
Galileo 2001 2 mins 33.27 secs 35.23 mph Good to Firm
Kris Kin 2003 2 mins 33.35 secs 35.21 mph Good
Australia 2014 2 mins 33.63 secs 35.15 mph Good
North Light 2004 2 mins 33.72 secs 35.13 mph Good
Mahmoud 1936 2 mins 33.80 secs 35.11 mph Firm
Kahyasi 1988 2 mins 33.84 secs 35.10 mph Good

The Oaks

The leading jockey in the Oaks is that of Frank Buckle, we rode 9 winners from 1797 through to 1823. In more recent times jockeys who’ve seen the most success has been that of Frankie Dettori, Ryan Moore and Kieren Fallon. It’s worth noting that these are the same successful jockey’s that have rode in the Derby as well, often getting the top pick of the horses from that race. 

In terms of trainers, Robert Robson has had the most wins with a staggering 13 victories between 1802 and 1825. You’ll notice that Robson is one of the most successful trainers of the Derby as well, making him a bit of legend around these parts. The likes of Henry Cecil, Aiden O’Brien and Saeed bin Suroor have all seen success in more recent times. 

Most Successful Epsom Oaks Trainers and Jockeys

TrainersJockeys
NameWinsFirst - LastNameWinsFirst - Last
Robert Robson 13 1802 - 1825 Frank Buckle 9 1797 - 1823
Henry Cecil 8 1985 - 2007 Lester Piggott 6 1957 - 1984
Alec Taylor Jnr 8 1910 - 1926 Frank Butler 6 1843 - 1852
John Scott 8 1836 - 1863 George Fordham 5 1859 - 1881
John Pratt 7 1781 - 1799 John Barnham Day 5 1828 - 1840
Aidan O'Brien 6 1998 - 2016 Sam Chifney Jnr 5 1807 - 1825
Frank Butters 6 1927 - 1948 Keiren Fallon 4 1997 - 2006
Noel Murless 5 1957 - 1973 Frankie Dettori 4 1994 - 2017
Mathew Dawson 5 1853 - 1891 Willie Carson 4 1977 - 1990
Charles Morton 4 1903 - 1914 Harry Wragg 4 1938 - 1946
Dixon Boyce 4 1806 - 1817 Joe Childs 4 1912 - 1921
Frank Neale 4 1788 - 1800 John Watts 4 1883 - 1893
      Fred Archer 4 1875 - 1885
      Tom Cannon Snr 4 1869 - 1884
      Dennis Fitzpatrick 4 1787 - 1800
      Sam Chifney 4 1782 - 1790

The fastest winning time in the Oaks came just last year in 2017 when Enable ran the race of their life winning in just 2m 34.13s. The longest odds winners have come at a hefty 50/1 and included both Sun Princess in 1833 and more recently, Jet Ski Lady in 1991. 

Fastest Recorded Epsom Oaks

HorseYearTimeAverage SpeedGoing
Enable 2017 2 mins 34.13 secs 35.04 mph Good
Intrepidity 1993 2 mins 34.19 secs 35.02 mph Good to Firm
Time Charter 1982 2 mins 34.21 secs 35.02 mph N/A
Snow Bride 1989 2 mins 34.22 secs 35.01 mph Good to Firm
Bireme 1980 2 mins 34.33 secs 34.99 mph N/A
Beam 1927 2 mins 34.60 secs 34.93 mph N/A
Taghrooda 2014 2 mins 34.89 secs 34.86 mph Good
Diminuendo 1988 2 mins 35.02 secs 34.83 mph Good to Firm
Light Brocade 1934 2 mins 35.20 secs 34.79 mph N/A
Pawneese 1976 2 mins 35.25 secs 34.78 mph N/A

History

The Derby Day Painting by William Powell Frith
The Derby Day by William Powell Frith via Wikimedia Commons

The Oaks actually came about 1 year before the Derby in 1779, making them both two of the oldest races in the history of British horse racing. The Oaks is actually named after a local estate, located not far from the Epsom racetrack and was leased to the 12thEarl of derby in the 18thcentury. It was actually after a party that was hosted but the Earl of Derby that he and his friends devised the race to be run at the nearby racecourse. 

In fact, it was Lord Derby himself who trained the inaugural winner, Bridget, which probably won’t come as a huge surprise since it was his idea to start with. Over the years the Oaks has seen some of the best fillies go on to win the race and in turn is widely regarded as an integral part of the Fillies Triple Crown.

The Derby came about just a year later and was designed as a celebration to the success of the Oaks. Whilst the Oaks was named after a local estate, it was decided that the Derby would be named after one of the names who were the driving force behind the race. Later, it was discovered that the name had actually been derived by Lord Derby himself, which is fair enough, and has since been known as the Derby. 

The first winner of the Derby was that of Diomed, a colt owned by Sir Charles Bunbury. The initial race was actually run over a 1m track, but later was extended in 1784 to 1 ½m, roughly what they still race today. In fact, the races starting point had actually shifted twice over the years, once in 1848 and then again in 1872. 

The Derby has actually been run at several different times of the year as well. Initially it was run in late May or early June and held on a Wednesday to fit in with railway timetables. It became more established in the 20th century switching to the first Wednesday in June from 1900 to 1995. The switch in 1995 to a Saturday was in order to cater for more people to see this now iconic race and it’s been set here ever since. 

The Derby is part of the Thoroughbred Triple Crown, which includes the 2,000 Guineas and the St Leger Stakes as well. There have only ever been 15 winners of the Triple Crown over the last 150+ years, with the latest being that of the great Nijinsky, ridden by none other than Lester Piggott in 1970. 

Lester Piggott

Lester Piggott is one of the most celebrated jockeys to have ever ridden a horse. He has a staggering 4,493 career wins to his name and is the most successful flat jockey in Britain of all time. He was famed for having his own unique style at the peak of his powers, which ironically is now taught to most up and coming jockeys and copied by a plethora of modern greats as well. 

The Derby has always been a high point in Piggott’s career and he holds the record for most wins by a jockey with 9 in total. What’s most impressive about his 9 wins is that they came over an illustrious 30 year love affair with the Derby, starting with his first winner in 1954 on Never Say die and finishing on Teenoso in 1983. 

But, Piggott was a colourful character and after retiring for the first time in 1985 to become a trainer, he got caught up in tax evasion, later being jailed for 366 days. Upon his release he needed to make money and the easiest way he knew how was riding, so was back racing by the 1990 flat season. Piggott highlighted his class in the saddle upon his return winning the 1992 2,000 Guineas and Breeders Cup Mile. His last ride came in the November Handicap in 1994 in the UK, but did make some races aboard, before finally retiring for good in 1995. 

Shergar

Shergar is one of the best horses to have raced in the Derby. Period. The horse wont the Derby in 1981, but it wasn’t just the fact he won, it was the manner. Shergar obliterated the field and won by a massive ten lengths and feat that has never been beaten or even come close to since. 

The horse was born in Ireland and trained in Great Britain, owned by Aga Khan and trained by the legendary Sir Michael Stoute. Not only did he win the Derby, but also went to win the Guardian Classic Trail, Chester Vase, Irish Derby and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, all in 1981. He reached a peak Timeform rating of 140 and has a race named after him (Shergar Cup) at Royal Ascot. 

But, controversy surrounding the horse in that he was stolen by masked gunmen in 1983 and has never been seen since. The case technically hasn’t been closed as no one has been prosecuted as a result, but one of the most intriguing conspiracy theories is that the IRA stole the horse to sell on and fund for weapons. 

Aidan O’Brien 

Aiden O’Brien will go down as one of the greatest trainers to have ever lived. He has won pretty much everything that you can as a Group 1 trainer and most on multiple occasions as well. What’s been impressive to see about O’Brien is that he hasn’t just had success in Ireland and Great Britain, but around the world including the UAE, United States, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Canada and Australia. 

Both the Derby and the Oaks have been successful hunting grounds for O’Brien and his probably the most successful trainer of the modern era, with 12 wins across the two. It was his three consecutive wins in the Derby that O’Brien will be best known for, winning in 2012, 2013 and 2014 on Camelot, Ruler of the World and Australia. 

2017 will probably have been the trainers most surprising win with Wings Of Eagles winning from a 40/1 starting price, one of the largest in Derby history. The horse had managed to fight off but the 7/2 favourite Cracksman ridden by Frankie Dettori and O’Brien’s very own Cliffs Of Moher, priced at just 5/1. 

Enable

In 2017, we saw what could be the making of one of the best fillies to have lived. It’s a very bold statement and very early days, but the form that Enable has shown winning the Epsom Oaks was mightily impressive. 

What’s probably most impressive has been Enable’s ability to follow that through, picking up wins at the Cheshire Oaks, Irish Oaks, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks and finally the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe that have really made putners and pundits take note. 

The horse is owned by Khalid Abullah and is trained by John Gosden at Newmarket. Her record over 2017 has been pretty much unflappable and it will be very interesting to see just how far she is able to go.

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