Britain's richest Flat horse race has been staged since 1780 and this year is the culmination of a two-day festival at Epsom Downs Racecourse and will attract a crowd of about 130,000. It has been run annually for 243 years but was moved from 1915-18 and 1940-45 to Newmarket during the two world wars.
The Derby, also known as the Epsom Derby or the Derby Stakes is worth £1.5 million, £850,650 of which goes to the winner which last year was the 5-2 favourite Desert Crown, trained by Sir Michael Stoute and owned by Saeed Suhail.
What is it?
The pinnacle of the Flat season, the Derby is one of English racing's five Classics in addition to the Oak which takes place at Epsom the day before, the 1,000 Guineas, the St Leger, and the 2,000 Guineas. The Derby is a race for three-year-old colts and fillies, run over one mile, four furlongs and 10 yards on Epsom Downs, a particularly undulating course with a pronounced slope towards the rails on the home straight.
When is the Epsom Derby?
The Derby takes place on Saturday, June 3, on the second day of the Festival. Two further Group 1 races, the Oaks and the Coronation Cup, will be staged on Friday, June 2, Ladies Day.
Following the disturbances at the Grand National, when 118 protesters were arrested having tried to glue themselves to some of the fences, the Jockey Club has promised to employ "robust" security measures for this year's race after animal rights protesters said they would target the event.
Animal Rising is planning to disrupt the world’s greatest Flat race on June 3 with the group claiming it will assemble up to 1,000 protesters who will lock and glue themselves onto perimeter fencing.
It is believed the Jockey Club and the British Horseracing Authority have had some assurance from the protest group they will not try and get on the course once the race has started; an act which would not only endanger their own lives but jockeys and the horses they purport to be protecting.
The Jockey Club’s chief executive Nevin Truesdale said: “We have been working with Surrey Police to ensure we have robust security measures in place. While we respect everyone’s right to peaceful and lawful protest, we would condemn illegal and reckless plans to breach security in an effort to disrupt action on the track and endanger safety of the participants in the strongest terms.”
Meanwhile, organisers have unveiled an LGBTQIA+ area to encourage a more diverse horse racing audience to attend.
The “celebratory” venue, which will feature drag performances and free queer literature, will open on the first day of races.
While the Jockey Club hopes it will make the event more “inclusive”, others believe it is simply a PR stunt that will do little to open up the sport.
A large festival-style tent will be installed on the Hill, the area at the centre of the racecourse where spectators can watch the Derby for free.
It will include a bar and DJ, along with performances from the drag queens Cara Melle and Bonk.
Said to “blend entertainment and education”, it will also provide a library of queer literature to “encourage more people from the LGBTQIA+ community to feel empowered to attend and engage with horse racing”.
What time does the race start?
The starter should send them off at 1.30pm on June 3, earlier than normal because of the scheduling of the FA Cup final for the same day.
What TV channel is it on?
The race will be broadcast live on ITV1 as part of their comprehensive coverage of Ladies Day and Derby Day from Epsom, presented by Ed Chamberlin. It will also be streamed on ITV+.
How big is the field?
No more than 20 thoroughbreds will run in the race on June 3 from an original entry of up to 400, registered and paid for in the December of their yearling year. In March 2023 those that wished to remain in the field paid a second fee and as of the end of April, just over a hundred had done so. The field will be further reduced in the middle of May when a third entry fee falls due which usually cuts the numbers to around two dozen. On Monday, May 29 those wishing to continue in the race will pay a final fee but there is also an opportunity for a late entry for those paying the Supplementary Entry fee, usually the equivalent of the prize money for finishing fourth. At that stage if there are more than 20 horses, the ones with the lowest ratings drop out and on Thursday, June 1 the final field is declared.
Will the King and Queen have any horses in the race?
There are three horses under royal colours among the entries though this may well change in the week of the race. Currently Slipofthepen, Desert Hero and Circle of Fire are possibles for the Derby Stakes and are, in theory at least, in with a chance of winning for the reigning monarch for the first time since Edward VII's Minoru was victorious in 1909.
Who is the most successful current trainer?
Not just the most successful trainer still plying his trade, Aidan O'Brien is the most successful trainer in the 242 years of Derbys, winning eight times with Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002), Camelot (2012), Ruler of the World (2013), Australia (2014), Wings of Eagles (2017), Anthony Van Dyck (2019) and Serpentine (2020).
What are the latest odds?
With the field currently still in its enlarged state, we cannot yet offer you a guide to the runners and riders until the final declarations. However, the bookmakers have assessed the 100+ remaining entries and are pricing the top six thus:
Auguste Rodin 6/1
Miltary Order 7/1
Flying Colours 12/1
Canberra Legend 16/1
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