Epsom Downs Racecourse

Published: 03/08/2013

Home to the Derby and Oaks, Epsom Downs Racecourse is located near Epsom, Surrey, where it takes its name from the area’s North Downs. It is often described as one of the most unusual flat racing courses in the world, whereas its left-handed horseshoe shaped track rises and falls to create a roller coaster of a run. The course is served by both the Epsom Downs railway line and Tattenham Corner railway station, which is where Queen Elizabeth II arrives via the British Royal Train on race days.

Home of a Legendary Heritage

Racing on the Downs began in 1661, continuing every summer until 1730 when twice yearly race meetings were hosted. In the summer of 1779, Edward Smith Stanley, the 12th Earl of Derby, organised a race for three-year-old fillies that he named it the Oaks after his estate. The following year, the Earl and Sir Charles Bunbury declared the inaugural race for colts and fillies that would become one of the five Classics, The Epsom Derby. It began as a straight line covering a mile, but 1784 saw the addition of the Tattenham Corner—now the most famous bend in racing—and the course took on its unique mile-and-a-half profile.

In 1879, the original Regency stand built in 1784 was altered and enlarged to its current form and became the Prince’s Stand. It was used by the Prince of Wales, later King George IV, to host the royal party celebration when the Prince won the Derby with Sir Thomas in 1788. During World War Two, the racecourse was given over to the military, and the Prince’s Stand was commandeered as the Officers Mess. As part of the celebrations for Derby 200 in 1979, the Prince’s Stand was extensively renovated. The Queens Stand was opened by Her Majesty in 1992 and the Duchess Stand was opened by The Duchess of Cornwall in 2009.

Apart from the Oaks and the Derby, Epsom Downs was the launching venue for such storied events as the Great Metropolitan Handicap in 1846 and the City & Suburban Handicap in 1851. It also plays host to such important races as the Diomed Stakes, Coronation Cup, Woodcote Stakes, Princess Elizabeth Stakes and the Investec Derby Trial.

As the third largest racehorse training facility in the country, Epsom Downs is managed by the Epsom trainers society and no fewer than eleven trainers based here, including Simon Dow and Laura Mongan, the only female trainer at Epsom. Richard Hannon is considered the top trainer associated with the racecourse, while the top jockeys include Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori.

Racing at Epsom Downs Today

Each year, Epsom Downs hosts 13 races days, the most famous being the Investec Derby Festival in June. It features the Group 1 Epsom Derby worth some £1,250,000 in prize money, making it Britain’s richest horse race. As the center of the racecourse is a public area, fans can watch the Derby free of charge, making it one of the most attended sporting events of the year, with crowds as large as 125,000 spectators. Packages inclusive of seating and meals are available from £149 per person.

Other exciting fixtures on the annual calendar include Ladies Night and the three-day Family Racing Festival in August as well as the Season Finale in September. Tickets that include admission to the stands start at £20, and packages from £29 include entrance, a racecard, a £2 tote betting voucher, a seasonal salad and a drink (choice of beer, wine or soft drink).

Epsom Downs also has live music nights, tote betting facilities, racing TV viewing, private boxes and seven main suites which stylishly accommodate between 10~800 guests. For dining and drinking, there are a wide variety of options from catering units around the perimeter of the Duchess’s Stand to permanent bars and eateries such as the Fish & Chips Café, Hogs Back Brewery for traditional real ale, the Blue Riband Bistro, the Champagne & Tapas Bar, and Bridget’s Bar in the Oaks Hall, to name a few.

Published on: 03/08/2013

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