As host to the Derby, Epsom Racecourse is a place where the biggest dreams in racing are either realised or destroyed on the first Saturday in June each year. It’s a dream that comes with a first prize of £850,650, as well as the promise of an even more lucrative career as a stallion to the next crop of potential Derby Winners.
However, Epsom has always polarised opinion as to its suitability for staging the world’s most famous flat race, with some judges considering its unique demands unfair, whilst other see it as the true test of a 3-year-old thoroughbred.
Epsom is a switchback course, one that requires Derby entrants to start the world’s most famous mile-and-half race with a steep uphill climb that is immediately followed by a demanding descent in which they first turn right, then left into the home straight where they have to navigate a right-to-left camber, before drawing on their reserves of stamina to climb the final uphill furlong.
Freak results aren’t as common as you might think though, and there have been few hard-luck stories over the years, with Dancing Brave being the last great horse who failed to win the Derby, and that was way back in 1986.
Epsom isn’t all about the Derby though, and the Fillies equivalent the Oaks is staged on the Friday over the same course and distance, as well as the Coronation Cup which is a prestigious Group 1 for older horses. Meanwhile, the Epsom Dash, over 5 furlongs, is one of the quickest races of the entire year, and it often produces the most exciting finish of the entire Derby Meeting.
There are also lots of other enjoyable meetings staged at Epsom, with April hosting the Blue Riband Derby Trial, as well as City and Suburban Handicap, and the Grand Metropolitan Handicap. Evening racing is also popular throughout the season.
Whilst it’s not impossible to come from behind at Epsom if the leaders go off too fast, evenly-paced races often tend to favour horses that like to race handily, especially races between 5 furlongs and 8½ furlongs.
Meanwhile, Jockeys always talk about needing a well-balanced horse to handle the unique undulations of Epsom, and you’ll often see unbalanced horses change legs when they reach the downhill section of the course. Some say the downhill section also gives non-stayers a chance of staying the 12-furlong trip of the Derby, however this has seldom been the case unless there’s a horse that simply outclasses the remainder of the opposition, and you’ll often see some of the runners tie-up in the last furlong as the stamina metre hits empty. Meanwhile, whilst a low-draw can be an advantage in a lot of races, stalls 1 and 2 don’t have a great record in the Derby. When the ground is soft, horse will also often come over to the stands-side in search of better ground.
Trainers And Jockeys To Watch
Mick Channon may not have had a Derby winner, but he has been the top trainer at Epsom over the last 3 seasons, with his 11 winners producing a level-stakes profit of £24.38. However, George Baker’s 8 winners from 32 runners have returned an even better profit of £39.75.
Top Epsom jockey Silvestre De Sousa also shows a level-stakes profit of £11.69 having ridden 21 winners from 80 rides. A name to keep an eye on though is Charles Bishop, who has incredibly ridden 8 winners from just 15 rides here for a level-stakes profit of £42.25.