The Kentucky Derby is the biggest horse race in the United States but it is the English version and precursor to all the others that is the most important Flat race in the world. Golden Horn is a worthy favourite to win this year’s contest on Saturday at Epsom racecourse on the outskirts of London. Frankie Dettori is arguably the best known jockey in the sport and he takes the mount that will give him the best chance in several years of winning the Derby for the second time.

Origins of the Derby

The Derby Stakes is a Group 1 race open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. The race that is run over one mile four furlongs is the richest horse race in Britain. The Blue Riband of the turf is the second leg of the Triple Crown which also comprises the 2,000 Guineas over one mile at Newmarket in early May and the St Leger over one mile six furlongs at Doncaster in September. A horse must show versatility and durability to win all three races and the feat is rarely attempted. Camelot won the first two legs in 2012 but was second in the St Leger so Nijinsky was the latest of 15 Triple Crown winners in 1970.

US Triple Crown

The name Derby has been copied for the premier Flat races in many racing jurisdictions around the world but the Epsom version is the original. The race could have easily been called the Bunbury as it was founded at a party in 1779 when the Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury tossed a coin for the honour of having their name in its title. From 1900 the Derby was run on the first Wednesday in June until 1995 when it was moved to the Saturday to attract a larger television audience.

For many years the occasion was a day out for Londoners and Parliament would adjourn early so members could get to the meeting from the city centre. Huge crowds would travel to Epsom on the premise of a horse race but many were just there to enjoy the fair and a multitude of entertainers. Times have changed and the fairground was closed in 2009 so the space could be used more viably from a commercial point of view. Despite the Derby’s importance to the breeding industry in many ways it has become another Flat race on a busy summer Saturday that offers many other sporting attractions.

Click here for Derby pedigree profile.

Race Records and Coolmore

Lester Piggott is the leading jockey with 9 wins, spanning 29 years from 1954 to 1983. Three trainers have had seven Derby winners in their care, two in the 19th century and another who won his sixth in 1941. The leading owners are Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor who are part of the Coolmore syndicate that has won the race six times including the last four. The system of investing in the best bloodstock to produce the best horses works and Coolmore have three entries horses in this year’s race.

Giovanni Canaletto, Hans Holbein and Kilimanjaro don’t appear leading contenders but all three have proven stamina and ran well in their trials. The Irish group of owners don’t have the favourite for the race this year yet they have still discovered three horses worthy of a place in the field. All their horses are trained by Aidan O’Brien and some are ridden by his son Joseph including the last two Derby winners. Weight problems have limited his rides and Ryan Moore takes the mount on Giovanni Canaletto who has been well backed this week.

The Frankie Factor

Strictly on ratings and form Golden Horn is the best horse in the race and the best horse usually wins the Derby. Dettori won the race in 2007 on Authorised but his career stalled last year after receiving a ban for taking recreational drugs. The jockey who does a flying dismount when he rides a big winner could be leaping from Golden Horn in the winner’s enclosure at Epsom on Saturday.

European odds can be found at British bookmakers William Hill

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