The internationally renowned Derby takes place annually at Epsom Downs Racecourse as part of the Investec Derby Festival. The Group 1 flat horse race was inaugurated in 1780 and famous winners include Shergar in 1981 and Nijinsky in 1970. Lester Piggott has the most wins of any jockey with 9 between 1954 and 1983.
The Derby originated at the first running of the Oaks Stakes in 1779. A new race was planned, and it was decided that it should be named after either the host of the party, the 12th Earl of Derby, or one of his guests, Sir Charles Bunbury. Legend has it that the decision was made by the toss of a coin. The inaugural running of the Derby was held on Thursday 4 May 1780. It was won by Diomed, a colt owned by Sir Charles Bunbury, who collected prize money of &1,065 15s. The first four runnings were contested over 1 mile, but this was amended to the current distance of 1½ miles in 1784. Lord Derby achieved his first success in the event in 1787, with a horse called Sir Peter Teazle.
Initially the Derby was run on a Thursday in late May or early June depending on when Easter occurred. In 1838 the race was moved to a Wednesday to fit in with the railway time tables, but was still run on different dates depending on Easter. In 1995 the day was changed from the first Wednesday in June to the first Saturday and since then all the races have taken place on that day.
The Derby has been run at Epsom in all years except during the world wars. From 1915 to 1918 and from 1940 to 1945 the Derby was run at Newmarket. These races are known as the 'New Derby'.
The Derby has inspired many similar events around the world. European variations include the Derby Italiano, the Deutsches Derby, the Irish Derby and the Prix du Jockey Club (popularly known in the British Isles as the "French Derby"). Other national equivalents include the Australian Derby, the New Zealand Derby and the Tokyo Yūshun. Several races in the United States include the "Derby" name, including the Kentucky Derby.
This year's Investec Derby Festival is held over two days:-
Ladies Day - Friday 5th June
Investec Derby Day - Saturday 6th June