Gold Cup Day at Cheltenham might run it close, but in terms of a single day’s racing, there are few cards – if any – to which we look forward to more than Derby Day at Epsom. Still the original and still the best, the oft-imitated Derby is one of the undoubted highlights of the entire racing season.
The first Derby was run in 1780, won by Diomed owned by Sir Charles Bunbury. He collected just over £1000 for the victory, the race did have a prize fund of over £1.6 million making it Britain’s most valuable horse race though this was reduced to £500,000 for 2020.
Next Race: Saturday, 5th June 2021
The next race is scheduled to run on 5th June 2021. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 4th July 2020
- Winner: Serpentine
- SP: 25/1
- Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
- Jockey: Emmet McNamara
1m4f is the trip for this Group 1 Classic contest which offers total prize money of £500,000 in 2020. The ground at the track is currently described as good, although the forecast in the lead up to the race is pretty mixed so that might well change if rain comes.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Good||1m4f||Group 1||£500,000||16 Runners||1/5 1-3|
Epsom Derby Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
This could be a momentous edition of Britain’s biggest flat race for Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien. Comfortably the most successful handler represented in this year’s renewal, the Ballydoyle supremo needs just one more win to move out on his own at the top of the all-time trainers table for the great race. That would be quite an achievement, and O’Brien looks set to give it a good shot as he sends six into battle.
Of the jockeys on show this year, six have come home in front in this race in the past, but only Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore have landed the prize on more than one occasion. Dettori gets the leg up on English King, whilst Moore will be aboard Mogul.
The Derby isn’t averse to throwing up the odd shock result, with the 40/1 success of Wings Of Eagles in 2017 being the biggest upset in recent times. The past decade has also seen three winning favourites; a respectable strike rate, but still handing supporters of the jolly a level stakes loss of £3.38.
|English King||5/2||112||Ed Walker||Frankie Dettori|
|Kameko||4/1||119||Andrew Balding||Oisin Murphy|
|Mogul||5/1||110||Aidan O'Brien||Ryan Moore|
English King – 5/2
If Frankie Dettori is to land a hattrick of Derby triumphs in 2020, then the horse to do it will be the Ed Walker-trained English King. Clear at the head of the market in most lists, the Camelot-sired colt is nevertheless only the joint second-best horse in the field on official ratings. He will be making only his fourth career start here though, and there would look to be a strong possibility that we haven’t seen anything like the best of him yet.
Always held in the highest regard by connections, the striking bay was given only a light juvenile campaign, culminating in an impressive success on the all-weather track at Newcastle. Strongly supported in the market ahead of his seasonal comeback in the Lingfield Derby Trial in June, backers had barely a moment’s worry, as he produced a display which immediately thrust him towards he head of the betting for this.
With the runner up that day, Berkshire Rocco, since going on to be beaten by a similar distance by subsequent Irish Derby winner, Santiago, the bare form has a solid look to it, but it is really the ease with which he put that race to bed which makes him of interest here. Travelling ominously well throughout, he then quickened up nicely, ultimately looking to have plenty left in the tank when hitting the line. One of only two previous winners at this distance in the field, he looks a big threat to all.
Kameko – 4/1
It may be held over four furlongs shorter and take place at a vastly different track, but there is nevertheless a commonly held view in racing that it is Newmarket’s 2,000 Guineas which serves as the ideal Derby Trial each year. There is plenty of evidence to back that up too, with many runners who have performed well in the opening Classic of the season doing likewise in this event.
Representing the Newmarket form this year is the Andrew Balding-trained 2 000 Guineas champ, Kameko. Never outside of the first two in four starts last year, he rounded off his campaign with an excellent display in the Vertem Futurity Stakes at Newcastle, putting a field which included the re-opposing Mogul firmly in the shade.
Returning to the track in the opening Classic of the season, he showed he had trained on nicely over the winter when staying on best of all down the outside to nail Wichita close home. That effort puts him seven pounds clear of the field on official ratings, making him the one to beat if handling this step up in trip. And that really is the big question mark. Half-brother Roaring Lion didn’t quite see it out when third here in 2018, but was still only beaten by two lengths, and sire, Kitten’s Joy, was a Group 1 winner at this distance. However, as is often the case with this race, we will only know whether he truly stays after the race has been run.
Mogul – 5/1
And then we come to the Aidan O’Brien battalion. Russian Emperor brings an excellent win in the Hampton Court Stakes to the table, whilst Vatican City was a huge eyecatcher when powering home into second behind Siskin in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Serpentine meanwhile is thrown straight in here on the back of nine-length maiden romp only last week and, being by Galileo, can’t be dismissed. All would look to have, at the very, least solid each way claims, and yet all have been discarded by Ryan Moore.
The horse Moore has plumped for is another of the Galileo colts, Mogul. Touted as a possible for this race almost from the moment he landed his Maiden at the Curragh last season, this one continued to appear to be on an upwards trajectory when scoring in Group 2 company at Leopardstown on his penultimate start at two. His subsequent effort when only fourth in the Vertem Futurity was however disappointing, for all that he didn’t look entirely at home on the all-weather surface that day. Brought back to the track this season for the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, he again seriously underwhelmed in coming home only fourth behind Pyledriver (who also goes here).
Clearly vast improvement is needed, but it is also likely to be forthcoming given his pedigree and connections. Full brother Japan warmed up for this race last year with a laboured defeat in the Dante Stakes at York, only to then run a screamer to be beaten only by a rapidly diminishing half length in the big one. Mogul wouldn’t be the formbook pick, but he has plenty else in his favour and may well show his true colours when it really matters.
Epsom Derby Winners
|2020||Serpentine||25/1||Aidan O'Brien||Emmet McNamara|
|2019||Anthony Van Dyck||13/2||Aidan O'Brien||Seamie Heffernan|
|2018||Masar||16/1||Charlie Appleby||William Buick|
|2017||Wings Of Eagles||40/1||Aidan O’Brien||Padraig Beggy|
|2016||Harzand||13/2||Dermot Weld||Pat Smullen|
|2015||Golden Horn||13/8||John Gosden||Frankie Dettori|
|2014||Australia||11/8||Aidan O’Brien||Joseph O’Brien|
|2013||Ruler Of The World||7/1||Aidan O'Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2012||Camelot||8/13||Aidan O'Brien||Joseph O'Brien|
|2011||Pour Moi||4/1||Andre Fabre||Mickael Barzalona|
There are five Classic contests on the British flat racing calendar, all of which bestow a significant quantity of prestige upon the winner. There is however one Classic which sits just a notch above the rest and that is the Epsom Derby.
It’s not the oldest, or the most stamina sapping of the five jewels in flat racing’s crown – both of those honours belong to Doncaster’s St. Leger – nor does it place quite the same demands on speed as the 1000 and 2000 Guineas. The Derby is however viewed as the most thorough and searching test of the Classic generation.
A little bit of everything is needed in order to prevail here. Horses need great stamina to see out the 1m4f trip but they also need the balance to handle the twists, turns and undulations of the unique configurations of the Epsom Downs track. On top of that, they also require a fair dose of speed. Slow horses simply don’t win the Derby.
Taking place on the first Saturday in June each year, the race – in common with the other Classic contests – is open only to three year old runners. Whilst fillies are permitted to take their place in the line-up, it is exceptionally rare to see one do so, making this effectively the championship middle distance event of the season for the most talented three year old colts in training. Here we take a closer look at the most famous flat race in the world, the oft imitated, but never equalled, Derby.
HEADS DERBY; TAILS BUNBURY?
The Derby is now a race name famous the world over, but where did it initially come from? As with so many of Britain’s races, the answer is found amongst the British nobility of years gone by.
Having already named The Oaks after one of his nearby estates, the 12th Earl of Derby was looking for a name for this new race, which was first run one year after the inaugural Oaks of 1779. Rumour had it that the Earl and the Steward of The Jockey Club at the time, Sir Charles Bunbury, flipped a coin for the right to have the race named in their honour. The coin came down in the Earl of Derby’s favour, and history was set.
But for the fall of that coin we may well be referring to this race as the Epsom Bunbury, and also have the likes of the Kentucky Bunbury, Australian Bunbury, French Bunbury and the New Zealand Bunbury on the international calendar. Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it somehow. Sir Charles did have a race named in his honour in the end in the form of Newmarket’s Bunbury Cup. Again, just not quite the same!
LITTLE CHANGE IN OVER 200 YEARS
The 1780 inaugural running of the race looked a little different to the event we know and love today, taking place as it did over the shorter trip of one mile. The race length was increased to 1m4f as early as 1784 though, and has remained that way ever since.
The Derby has called Epsom home for every edition of the race other than during the war years, when necessity dictated that it be moved to the traditional home of British flat racing, Newmarket. For a race with such a long history, remarkably little has changed over the (many) years.
THE DERBY: A ROAD TO RICHES
Whilst the trip and location have remained largely consistent over the years, the prestige and value of the contest have continued to grow and grow. Worth just over £1,065 to connections of the very first winner, prize money stood at a whopping £1.6m in 2019 making this Britain’s richest flat race at the time. The prize fund was lowered to £500,000 for the 2020 race as a result of the meeting being held without racegoers.
The prize money is not an inconsiderable sum in its own right, but when we also factor in the fact that winners of the race often go on to a multimillion-pound career at stud, we get some idea as to why this race is such a big deal, and the one everyone wants to win.
FASTEST DERBY WINNER
|Workforce||Sir Michael Stoute||Ryan Moore||2010||2:31:33|
Many a legendary racehorse has come home in front in this race over the years, but none have completed the course in quite so quick a time as Sir Michael Stoute’s 2010 winner, Workforce. The son of King’s Best bombed out on his next start after winning here, but proved his class in going on to a famous success in that season’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. As of 2020, Workforce’s winning time of 2m31.33s is yet to be equalled around here.
LARGEST DERBY WINNING DISTANCE
|Shergar||Sir Michael Stoute||Walter Swinburn||1981||10 Lengths|
Never to be forgotten due to the unfortunate events which followed his Epsom triumph, no horse has won this race with such authority as another of Sir Michael Stoute’s winners, Shergar. Tragically kidnapped and reportedly killed by the IRA following his Derby win in 1981, the 10-length beating he handed out to his rivals that day stands as the record winning distance in the race as of 2020.
LONGEST PRICED DERBY WINNERS
|Aboyeur||Tom Lewis||Edwin Piper||1913||100/1|
|Signorinetta||Edoardo Ginistrelli||Billy Bullock||1908||100/1|
|Jeddah||Richard Marsh||Otto Madden||1898||100/1|
The Derby hasn’t been averse to a shock result over the years, with 2018 hero Masar (16/1), and 2017 champ, Wings Of Eagles (40/1), being far from the top of most people’s lists of likely winners. That duo pale in comparison to Jeddah (1898), Signorinetta (1908) and Aboyeur (1913) though, with that trio all defying the compilers to score at a whopping 100/1. Hopefully your great, great grandparents backed them!
SHORTEST PRICED DERBY WINNER
|Ladas||Matthew Dawson||John Watts||1894||2/9|
Results are however often somewhat more predictable. Golden Horn (13/8), Australia (11/8) and Camelot (8/13) being three recent examples of market leaders to have obliged in some style. The shortest priced winner of the lot though came way back in 1894 when Ladas came home in front at a prohibitive 2/9.
Aidan Takes The Lead
As we can see from the above table there are a whole host of trainers to have compiled a formidable record in Britain’s greatest flat race, with eight now being the magic number leading the way as of 2020. Fred Darling, John Porter and Robert Robson won’t be adding to their totals now, so one man who may extend his lead over them all is Irish training sensation, Aidan O’Brien, who reached the top of the trainers chart in 2020.
Beginning with 2001 champ Galileo – who has since gone on to become perhaps the greatest sire in history – O’Brien quickly acquired an outstanding record in this race, with two of Galileo’s sons, Australia and Ruler Of The World helping him to a total of eight wins. With more top talent coming off the Ballydoyle production line year upon year, it would take a brave man to bet against O’Brien holding the record long into the future.
PIGGOTT PEERLESS AMONGST RIDERS
The more you look into the history of Britain’s biggest flat races, the more you realise just how much of a dominant force the great Lester Piggott was during his long and illustrious career.
The Epsom Derby is just another in a long list of top class contests to have fallen under Piggott’s spell, and it is “The Long Fellow” who is way out in front on his own in the list of top riders here. With no current jockey within sight of Piggott at present, this is a record that will likely stand for some time yet.