The History of the Epsom Derby

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com! Ahead of today’s renewal of the Cazoo Derby, let’s have a look into the history of the race!


The Epsom Derby Stakes is a Group 1 flat race which is ran at Epsom Downs racecourse and is open to three year old colts and fillies. It is ran over a distance of 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 6 yards and it takes place in late May or early June each year and the first running of the race was in 1780. It is Britain’s richest flat horse race and the most prestigious of the 5 Classic races as well as the middle leg of the Triple Crown, with the 2,000 Guineas before and the St Leger following. In the previous running in 2020 the race was worth £491,850 with the winner getting £283,550.


The first winner of the race in 1780 was a horse called Diomed for jockey Sam Arnull, trainer R. Teasdale and owner Sir Charles Bunbury. Jumping into the 1800’s, Robert Robson who dominated the Epsom Oaks, started to dominate the Epsom Derby winning firstly in 1802 with Tyrant who partnered up with Frank Buckle and owner the 3rd Duke of Grafton, winning again in 1809 with Pope for jockey Tom Goodisson and owner the 3rd Duke of Grafton. In 1810 with Whalebone for Bill Clift and owner the 3rd Duke of Grafton with plenty more victories to follow up to 1823.

In 1828, interestingly there was a deadheat, however Cadland for Jem Robinson, Dixon Boyce and the 5th Duke of Rutland ended up winning in a ‘run off’ against The Colonel.

Skipping forward quite a few years, in 1896, Persimmon won the race for jockey John Watts, trainer Richard Marsh and the Prince of Wales, with another winner for the Prince of Wales in 1900 when Diamond Jubilee won for jockey Herbert Jones and trainer Richard Marsh.

In 1909, Minoru won for jockey Herbert Jones, trainer Richard Marsh and owner King Edward VII.

In 1930, Aga Khan III won with Blenheim with jockey Harry Wragg and trainer Dick Dawson, winning again in 1935 with Bahram for jockey Freddie Fox and trainer Frank Butters and again in 1936 with Mahmoud for jockey Charles Smirke and trainer Fred Butters again. As well as a victory in 1952 with Tulyar for jockey Charles Smirke and trainer Marcus Marsh.

In 1954, Lester Piggott won the race for the first time on Never Say Die for trainer Joseph Lawson and owner Robert Sterling Clark.

In 1970, the very famous Nijinsky won the race for Lester Piggott, Vincent O’Brien and Charles W. Engelhard Jr. Mill Reef in 1971 for Geoff Lewis, Ian Balding and Paul Mellon.

Another notable name is Shergar who won the race in 1981 for Walter Swinburn, (Sir) Michael Stoute and Aga Khan VI. (If you don’t know the story of Shergar you can read all about it right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2020/07/25/what-happened-to-shergar/)

If we now skip forward to the 21st century, we see Galileo win the race in 2001 for Michael Kinane, Aidan O’Brien and Magnier / Tabor. (You can read all about him, his racing career and his career in stud right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/03/12/galileo-what-makes-a-peoples-horse/)

Motivator won the race in 2005 for Johnny Murtagh, Michael Bell and the Royal Ascot Racing Club. Authorized in 2007 for Frankie Dettori, Peter Chapple-Hyam and Al Homaizi / Al Sagar. In 2009, Sea The Stars won the race for Michael Kinane, John Oxx and Christopher Tsui. With Camelot winning in 2012 for Joseph and Aidan O’Brien and owners Smith / Magnier / Tabor, followed by Ruler of the World for Ryan Moore, Aidan O’Brien and Magnier / Tabor / Smith and in 2014, Australia for Joseph and Aidan O’Brien and Smith / Magnier / Tabor / Khing.

2015 we seen Golden Horn win the race for Frankie Dettori, John Gosden and Anthony Oppenheimer. And in 2016, the late, great, Pat Smullen won the race on Harzand for Dermot Weld and owner Aga Khan IV.

In 2019 the late Anthony Van Dyck won the race for Seamie Heffernan, Aidan O’Brien and Smith / Magnier / Tabor. And the most recent winner in 2020 which was ran in July due to the Covid 19 pandemic was Serpentine for Emmet McNamara, Aidan O’Brien and Tabor / Smith / Magnier.


Now onto some records within the race!

The fastest winning time was set in 2010 when Workforce won the race in 2 minutes 31.33 seconds.

The longest odds winners were Jeddah in 1898, Signorinetta in 1908 and Aboyeur in 1913 who all won at 100/1.

The shortest odds winner was in 1894 when Ladas won at 2/9.

The widest winning margin was in 1981 when Shergar won by 10 lengths.

The race with the most runners was in 1862 when 34 horses ran.

The race with the fewest runners was in 1794 when only 4 horses ran.


Now onto the leading jockey, trainer and owner!

Firstly the leading jockey who is Lester Piggott who won the race 9 times. Never Say Die in 1954, Crepello in 1957, St Paddy in 1960, Sir Ivor in 1968, Nijinsky in 1970, Roberto in 1972, Empery in 1976, The Minstrel in 1977 and Teenoso in 1983.

The leading trainer is Aidan O’Brien, who to date has won 8 times. Galileo in 2001, High Chaparral in 2002, Camelot in 2012, Ruler of the World in 2013, Australia in 2014, Wings of Eagles in 2017, Anthony Van Dyck in 2019 and Serpentine in 2020.

And the leading owner – including part ownership – like many of these posts I have done are Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor who have won it 9 times. Galileo in 2001, High Chaparral in 2002, Pour Moi in 2011, Camelot in 2012, Ruler of the World in 2013, Australia in 2014, Wings of Eagles in 2017, Anthony Van Dyck in 2019 and Serpentine in 2020.


So there we have it, a little look into the history of the Epsom Derby. Today’s renewal looks to be another brilliant race so I cannot wait to see how it goes! I hope you enjoyed this one and I will see you all on Wednesday evening for a new post and it is a very interesting post – Eight Interesting Horse Racing Facts You May Not Know!