Epsom Downs Racecourse – Epsom Hospitality
Standing on the beautiful North Downs, Epsom is shaped like an elongated horseshoe.
The track rises 150 feet in the first half mile then levelling out before a downhill stretch round Tattenham Corner.
The course, which has a crowd capacity of 120,000, is best known for The Derby, the premier thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old colts and fillies, over a mile and a half in June.
It also hosts The Oaks for three-year-old fillies, and the Coronation Cup for horses aged four years and upwards.
All three are Group 1 races and run over the same course and distance.
Sponsored by Investec Bank, the Derby is Britain’s richest horse race, and the most prestigious of the five Classics. It is sometimes referred to as the “Blue Riband” of the turf.
The race serves as the middle leg of the Triple Crown, preceded by the 2,000 Guineas and followed by the St Leger, although the feat of winning all three is now rarely attempted.
The name “Derby” has become synonymous with great races all over the world, and as such has been borrowed many times, notably by the Kentucky Derby. However, the Epsom Derby is the original. It is one of Britain’s great national events transcending its own field of interest, and has a huge world-wide TV audience.
Great horses have thrilled the spectators.
The Derby began in 1780 when it was won by a horse called Diomed who would become the first of many legends to triumph. Some of the fabled winners to name just a few include Najinsky in 1970 and the superb Shergar in 1981.
Leading jockey with nine wins is the incredible Lester Piggott with Never Say Die (1954), Crepello (1957), St. Paddy (1960), Sir Ivor (1968), Nijinsky (1970), Roberto (1972), Empery (1976), The Minstrel (1977), and Teenoso (1983), spanning 29 years.
The first recorded race was held on the Downs in 1661, although a local burial list of 1625 refers to “William Stanley who in running the race fell from his horse and brake his neck” so it is likely that racing was established much earlier than that. Epsom is referenced in the diary of Samuel Pepys in 1663 and Charles II is said to have been a racegoer there. By 1684, Epsom had a clerk of the course and from 1730 was hosting twice yearly race meetings.
In 1779, Lord Derby organised a race for himself and his friends for their three-year-old fillies. He named it the Oaks after his estate. From there was conceived the idea of a race to establish which horse was the best of its generation – this was the Derby.
Some odd facts about Epsom you may not know include:
- Henry Dorling, step-father to cookery writer Mrs Beeton, was a clerk of the course, appointed in 1840.
- In 1913 the suffragette Emily Davison threw herself in front of King George V’s horse Anmer, bringing him down. Davison was badly injured and died four days later.
- In 1952 the racecourse was featured extensively in the film Derby Day.
As you would expect, Epsom offers extensive hospitality and facilities.
In 2009 the racecourse opened the Duchess’s Stand. It has a capacity of 11,000 with a 10,000 sq ft hall which can be used for banqueting, conferences and exhibitions.
Similarly the Queen’s Stand is a purpose-built conference centre which can host up to 800 guests.
Private boxes are available and there is a huge choice of bars and restaurants.
Epsom has it all.