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History of the Epsom Derby

The Epsom Derby is the most prestigious of the five Classics in horse racing in England on the flat. It is run over one mile, four furlongs and 10 yards at Epsom Downs in Surrey and has Group One status.

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The race is open to three-year-old colts or fillies and tends to attract the best middle distance runners of that generation in Europe.

It was first held in 1780 as Diomed took the inaugural running for owner Sir Charles Bunbury.

The Epsom Derby is the second leg of the Triple Crown as it comes after the 2000 Guineas and before the St Leger. The last horse to achieve the Triple Crown feat was Njinsky in 1970. Camelot went close to matching that achievement in 2012 but he could only finish second in the third leg at Doncaster over 1m6f.

It is thought that the Derby was named in honour of the 12th Earl of Derby. He actually scored in the contest in 1784 as he owned the winner that year, Sir Peter Teazle. 
Epsom Downs has been home of the Derby in all the years except between 1915-1918, during World War One, and from 1940-1945, while World War Two was taking place. Newmarket played host for those races, which have since been referred to as the New Derby.

Jockey Lester Piggott has the record for the most winning rides in the race at a total of nine. He first won it in 1954 with Never Say Die. Then, 29 years later, he brought up his ninth success on Teenoso.

Robert Robson, John Porter and Fred Darling have all trained seven winning horses in the Derby. Robson did so in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Porter was dominant in the late 19th century, while Darling has been the most successful over the last century.

The most eye-catching performance in this race came in 1981, when Shergar won by 10 lengths. The Irish horse came across with a huge reputation but he enhanced it even further following his run. He later became subject to the headlines on the front pages of newspapers when he was kidnapped. Unfortunately he was never returned or rescued so his career on the track was cut short.

In 2010 Workforce took advantage of the quick conditions to clock the fastest winning time at 2m 31. 33s. He brought up trainer Sir Michael Stoute's fifth success in the Classic.

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