The Derby is one of the richest horse races. Sometimes popularly referred to as the “Blue Riband” of the turf, the prestigious event attracts horses and enthusiasts from every part of the world. It is the middle leg of the Triple Crown. It comes before the St Leger and it is preceded by the 2,000 Guineas held at Newmarket.
The singularly influential racecourse has a crowd capacity of 120,000 people. The first ever recorded horse race was held in 1611, even though the available formal documents do not specifically provide the exact date on which this maiden event was held.
Nevertheless, some other existing texts seem to suggest that racing commenced at a much earlier date. For instance, a local cemetery includes a grave inscription for a certain William Stanley who reportedly “broke” his neck during a riding game at the long-established racing grounds. Since the burial date provided on the ancient epitaph is 1625, then this is a strong proof that track activities at the racecourse may have started at least some few decades before the officially stated time.
In the summer of 1779, Edward Smith-Stanley, a horse lover and the 12th Earl of Derby came up with an informal race that included a few names from his little circle of close friends. The friendly riding competition that was otherwise meant to be a private pastime with fillies that were aged three years. The then famous earl named the race “Oaks” after his personal estate. After the little-known race elicited attention and accolades from several high-end quarters, a similar horse riding competition was introduced the following year –The Derby, also popularly known as the Epsom Derby. The Epsom Derby later grew to define the future of the Epsom Racecourse.
Due to the widening publicity of the just introduced event, Epsom’s then one-and-a-half mile course was enlarged and Tattenham Corner was added to the track area. After its low-profile addition to the list of regular fixtures at the racing spot, The Derby has since increased in terms of fame and year after year to become one of the most-loved horse sporting competitions not only in Europe but also in the entire history of horse racing. The extraordinary track event is simply unequaled in the whole of Britain, and only rivaled by very few occasions of its nature worldwide.
Another noteworthy individual who is memorably associated with the history of the racecourse is Henry Dorling, stepfather to the famous cookery author Mrs. Beeton. Mr. Dorling was a clerk at Epsom Downs Racecourse, with the racecourse’s official records showing that he started clerkship at the racing site in 1840, serving for an indeterminate period of time.
Another well-known British woman gave Epsom track both positive and negative publicity – depending on the quarter at which the then bafflingly shocking developments were reported. In 1913, the widely respected suffragette Emily Davidson cast herself in front of King George V’s personal horse called Anmer, and brought monarch tumbling down as shocked masses looked on in astonishment. Despite communicating an emphatic point regarding the cause for which she so self-sacrificially followed, she lost her life four days later as a result of her injuries she had sustained.
In 1952, the racecourse was painstakingly covered in the film “Derby Day” which was set around that year’s Epsom Derby events. The attention-grabbing footage popularized this sporting site resulting in a huge influx of sports tourists from places as far as Asia, Canada, and the United States. The clips still remain to detail informational footage about Epsom Racecourse.
Again, Epsom enjoyed media publicity when the new Duchess Stand was publicly unveiled, much to the jubilation of the thousands of racegoers in attendance. This stand has the capacity to hold up to 11,000 people and has a huge hall that measures an estimated 10 sq ft. The assembly room has been since used for a number of sporting and social purposes that include conferences, banqueting, and trade exhibitions. The exquisite facility was constructed at a cost of £23.5 and the mega project was ably superintended by Willmott Dixon. Presently, Epsom Downs Racecourse Stand is one of the best in Britain. The hall has consisted been ranked among the best five such facilities in the country.
Further, Prince William (Duke of Cambridge) and his wife Catherine (Duchess of Cambridge) made their first public outing after the low-profile Seychelles honeymoon at Epsom. Other members of the royal circle who accompanied them on this famous tour of the racing grounds included Prince Harry, Catherine’s parents, Michael and Carol Middleton, William’s brother, and, most notably, Her Majesty the Queen herself. The long-serving monarch and her close blood relations received deafening cheers and respectful greetings from excited racing fans and celebrated horse riding luminaries who felt greatly honored by the monarch’s globally televised attendance of the Epsom Derby events in 2011.
The extraordinary reputation that Epsom enjoys as a leading Grade 1 sporting facility in Britain and in the entire Europe marks this venue as unrivaled. As a result of the royal visits, sponsorship deals increased and media coverage of the event more than doubled, with thousands of foreign media houses dispatching both electronic and print journalists to the racing facility where the monarchs had been seen enjoying thoroughbred racing at its best.
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