Epsom Derby guide - history, hats and horses

PUBLISHED: 10:29 22 November 2011 | UPDATED: 21:31 20 February 2013

Epsom Derby guide - history, hats and horses

Epsom Derby guide - history, hats and horses

Every June, Epsom Downs Racecourse hosts one of the most iconic events in the British sporting and social calendar – the Investec Derby Festival. Here, we provide you with your essential guide to the weekend

Taking inspiration from an archived stripof the Illustrated London News, a new design has been drawn up to celebrate theEpsom Derbyshistory in the run-up to the two day festival in June.

A cutting from the 1845 former picture newspaper has beenmodernised to capture the 21st century scene of the derby at Epsom Downs Racecourse.

The London Bus, several of which line the racetrack over the festival, has become a symbol of what is now known as the Investec Derby and is seen travelling with the characters on their road to Epsom.

The Investec Derby has been running for 232 years and the annual race attracts crowds of over 125,000.

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine June 2010

Epsom Derby hats for ladies' day (and other occasions...)

With the crowds flocking to the Epsom Derbyweekend, here we bring you some of the most beautiful hats available on Surreys high streets.

What will you be wearing to this year's Derby? Share your racecourse fashion tips, pics and faux pas with us...

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2007

The bluffer's guide to the Epsom Derby

The legendary Epsom Derby is one of the biggest events in the horse racing calendar. A truly unmissable two-day festival, it attracts well over 100,000 people, and aside from the racing itself, there is loads of great entertainment on offer from live bands to funfairs as well as countless places to eat, drink and picnic. In fact, there is so much to see and do that at times it can all seem a tad overwhelming but never fear! Here, we bring you our ultimate bluffers guide to the festival, with everything you need to know from where to eat and what to wear to how to place a bet. So even if youve never been to the festival before, armed with our handy guide, youll be able to bluff your way with the best of them...

Words by Helen Hughes

The starting gate
The Epsom Derby begins on Friday June 1 with Vodafone Ladies Day one of the most important events in the social calendar. A wonderfully stylish occasion, this is the day when the ladies take centre stage both on and off the course. Dress up in your best while watching the finest fillies competing in the feature race, The Oaks.

The following day, Saturday June 2, sees one of the most famous sporting occasions in the world Derby Day. The Derby is the showpiece of the flat racing season and headlines a great day of racing. It remains the race that everyone wants to win as horses and riders are pushed to their limit around the challenging course.

A potted history

  • The town of Epsom fi rst b ecame famous w he n a local farmer discovered a watering hole of natural miner al water in 1618.

  • The alleged healing properties of the water brought crowds from London who wanted to sample the unique taste and country air.

  • The first race meeting was seen on the Downs in 1661 and the tradition continued until the summer of 1779 when the Derby Festival was established.

  • The festival consists of two days, Ladies day and the Derby Day, which the Royal family often attend. The race is considered the ultimate test and attracts only the best horses!

What to wear
For the ladies, the festival, especially Ladies Day, is the event for which everyone gets out their best and brightest frocks, gold and glitter, gems and diamonds, heels and hats. Clothes and racing have become intertwined and outfits are now central to the day. No outfit would be complete without a hat to top it off and the bigger, louder, brighter, more stylish, classy and wilder, the better. What is more, the best dressed lady will win the Style on the Downs competition.

Gentlemen, meanwhile, take the opportunity to don their morning suit, top hat and not forgetting those all-important binoculars! However, if the casual approach is more your style, up on the Hill the dress code is more relaxed and even jeans are acceptable.

Food facts
The Epsom Derby 2006 consumed:

  • 400 kilos of smoked salmon

  • 6,000 chicken breasts

  • 1.5 tons of beef

  • 1,500 lamb rumps

  • 5,000 lbs of potatoes

  • 10,000 rounds of sandwiches

  • 2,500 lbs of strawberries

  • 5,000 litres of cream

  • 15,000 bottles of champagne

  • 44,000 pints of beer

  • 3,000 bottles of Pimms

Source: Sodexho Prestige

Placing a bet
The colourful competition between bookmaker and punter at a racecourse is an experience not to be missed! No matter how big or small the bet, a bookmaker will be happy to take you on.

In a horse race, while all the entrants are in with a chance, not all horses are considered as being equally likely to win. The bookmakers give their assessment of a horses chance and ability to win by putting up their dividends display. This provides details of what the bookmaker is offering for a horse in that particular race.

The odds, starting from No.1 as the favourite to win, can accelerate into the hundreds if the bookmaker thinks the horse has less of a chance.

Once the punter has made their selection of which horse to bet on, the odds on the display are what you need to take into account. The bookmaker with the highest offer i.e. 25-1 rather then 10-1 is where you should place the bet. If you place 1 on a horse to win and the odds are 25-1, and the horse comes first you would win 25.

Obviously, the higher the odds, the less chance the bookmaker thinks the horse has of winning. This can work to your advantage when choosing your horse.

This is only a short overview of the betting procedure the best thing to do is to go along and have a try; youll soon pick it up.

Celebrity spotting
The Derby Festival is a fantastic opportunity for celeb spotting. Behind the hats and large sunglasses, you will find many familiar faces, such as Joan Collins, Rod Stewart, Vinny Jones, Anthea Turner and Michael Owen oh,and thats not to mention the Royals including, usually, the Queen. I think you get the idea

Getting there
From car to helicopter, there are plenty of ways to get to the Derby. Car parking spaces need to be booked and paid for along with your ticket in advance. There is also a heliport on the downs for the more stylish approach.

If you are thinking of travelling by train, there are three local stations, Tattenham Corner being the closest at half a mile away. By far the busiest and most frequent, though, is Epsom Station from where it is a short taxi or bus ride up to the course.

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