The History of the Irish Derby

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com! As always, when a big race is upon us, I take a look at the history and today is no different. So let’s get right into today’s post all about the Irish Derby!


The Irish Derby is ran at the Curragh Racecourse in County Kildare in Ireland. It is a Group 1 flat race open to three year old colts and fillies. It is ran over a distance of 1 mile and 4 furlongs and takes place in late June or early July each year, 3 weeks after the English equivalent – the Epsom Derby. The Irish Derby first took place in 1866. In 2020 the race was worth €690,000 with the winner receiving €427,500.

There were earlier versions of this race, the first being the O’Darby Stakes which was established in 1817 however was discontinued after 1824. Another version was established in 1848 called the Curragh Derby, however this was also short-lived.

The modern version we see today was created by the 3rd Earl of Howth, the 3r Marquess of Drogheda and the 3rd Earl of Charlemont and was first run in 1866. It was initially run over 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 3 yards and in 1869 it was extended by 9 yards however in 1872 it was cut to its present distance of 1 mile and 4 furlongs.


The first winner of the Irish Derby in 1866 was Selim. Some early winnrs include Billy Pitt in 1870, Ben Battle in 1874, King of the Bees in 1880, Pet Fox in 1887, Orby in 1907, Land of Song in 1914, Rock Star in 1930 and Piccadilly in 1945.

In 1953, Chamier won for jockey Bill Rickaby, trainer Vincent O’Brien and owner Mrs F L Vickerson, however it was actually Premonition who finished first but was later disqualified.

If we skip forward a little bit, in 1970 Nikinsky won for Liam Ward, Vincent O’Brien and Charles Engelhard. With another notable name in Shergar winning in 1981 for Lester Piggott, Michael Stoute and HH Aga Khan IV.

Other winners include Old Vic in 1989 for Steve Cauthen, Henry Cecil and Sheikh Mohammed. Commander in Chief for Pat Eddery, Henry Cecil and Khalid Abdullah. And Desert King in 1997 for Christy Roche, Aidan O’Brien and Michael Tabor.

Moving into the new millennium, we see Galileo win the race in 2001 for Michael Kinane, Aidan O’Brien and Magnier / Tabor, the same trio also won in 2002 this time with High Chaparral.

In 2004 the late Pat Smullen won the race on Grey Swallow for Dermot Weld and Rochelle Quinn. In 2009 Fame and Glory won for Johnny Murtagh, Aidan O’Brien and Smith / Magnier / Tabor. With Camelot winnin in 2012 for Joseph O’Brien, Aidan O’Brien and Derrick Smith.

In 2014 Joseph O’Brien won the race on board Australia for Aidan O’Brien and owners Smith / Magnier / Tabor. In 2016 we seen the late Pat Smullen win the race again, this time on Harzand for Dermot Weld and Aga Khan IV.

The last two winners have been Sovereign in 2019 for Padraig Beggy, Aidan O’Brien and Magnier / Tabor / Smith and in 2020 we seen Santiago win for Seamie Heffernan, Aidan O’Brien and Tabor / Smith / Magnier.


Moving on to some records in the race. Starting with the leading jockey who is Morny Wing who won the race 6 times with Ballyheron (1921), Waygood (1923), Rock Star (1930), Rosewell (1938), Windsor Slipper (1942) and Bright News (1946).

Now on to the leading trainer, Aidan O’Brien who’s won the race 14 times with Desert King (1997), Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002), Dylan Thomas (2006), Soldier of Fortune (2007), Frozen Fire (2008), Fame and Glory (2009), Cape Blanco (2010), Treasure Beach (2011), Camelot (2012), Australia (2014), Capri (2017), Sovereign (2019) and Santiago (2020).

The leading owner in the Irish Derby is Michael Tabor (including part ownership) who has won with: Desert King (1997), Montjeu (1999), Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002), Hurricane Run (2005), Dylan Thomas (2006), Soldier of Fortune (2007), Frozen Fire (2008), Fame and Glory (2009), Cape Blanco (2010), Treasure Beach (2011), Australia (2014), Capri (2017), Sovereign (2019) and Santiago (2020).

A unique record in this race is that only one owner has ever completed the Irish Derby and Irish Grand National double. This was William Brophy in 1990 who won the Irish Derby with King of the Bees and the Irish Grand National with Controller. Also interesting to note that both winners were out of the same dam, Winged Bee.


Personally for me, I’m going to be boring and go for the current favourite (13/8 on Ladbrokes at the time of writing this 9pm on 25/06/2021), High Definition. I really like this horse and the Ryan Moore – Aidan O’Brien partnership is always a force to be reckoned with. However it looks to be a good renewal this year so I’m excited to see who does win!

Hopefully you all enjoyed this post and I will see you all Wednesday evening at 6pm for a new post.

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