As one of the most famous race courses in the world, its also one of the most testing trips in flat racing today. Resembling the shape of a horseshoe, the Derby course of a mile and a half is ran in a left-handed direction. A right-handed rise of some one hundred and forty feet begins not long after the race commences. After about three furlongs at the top of the hill the field descend at Tattenham Corner and enter the finishing straight of about three and a half furlongs. The drop of about one hundred feet continues until about one hundred yards from the finishing line, the ground here rises for another several feet before the winning post.
Epsom first became famous for it's natural mineral water when a local farmer, Henry Wicker took his cattle up to a watering hole on the Downs in 1618. The alleged healing properties of the water brought crowds from London who wanted to escape the squalor in return for the country air.
The first race at the Downs was held in 1661 and the tradition continued until the summer of 1779 when one of today's greatest sporting events was established. The Derby came into being due to Edward Smith Stanley, the 12th Earl of Derby, who organised a race for himself and his friends to race their three-year-old fillies over one and a half miles. He named it the Oaks after his estate. The race became so successful that the following year a new race was added for colts and fillies. The contest was held over a mile with the starting point in a straight line beyond the current five-furlong marker. Tattenham Corner was not introduced until 1784 when the course was extended to its current distance of a mile- and-a-half.
For Many years the Derby was held on the first Wednesday of June every year and it became a major event for the business people of London who would take the day off to attend this great race. In recent years the Derby now takes place on the first Saturday in June.
In recent years the race has being sponsored by Vodaphone who have ensured that this great occasion is the premier flat racing event of the year. What makes it most special is that the pomp and ceremony still in evidence as the men will dress up in Morning suits for the occasion.