Just under 14 miles southwest of central London, on Surrey’s North Downs, you will find one of England’s most prominent racetracks: Epsom. Home of the Group One Investec Derby, Epsom is a Grade One, flat race course that is reasonably priced to enter for the most part, should you be happy to mingle on The Hill, at least. Just across the course from Hillside and a short walk through a tunnel, you will find the Queen’s Stand, where celebrities, socialites, wealthy types and, of course, the royals take in the on-course action in luxury.
The course is operated by the 270-year-old Jockey Club and, as outlined above, this is the course where the Derby is held as part of a two-day festival that has been staged here since the 1700s and also includes The Oaks. As tends to be the case with major English racing festivals, these are society events where racing, fashion, and entertainment collide to create a unique atmosphere and top-level racing famous the world over.
Because the English flat season runs over the summer months, Epsom really comes into its own once the National Hunt comes to a close in April, usually around the time of The Grand National at Liverpool’s Aintree. Epsom hosts more than ten meetings over the year from late April to late September. The venue also hosts family fun day events and various other non-horsey forms of entertainment, making it a great place for families to visit as well as being conveniently located just 30 minutes from London by train.
The cheapest ticket will set you back £12.50 and will provide you with access to the Hillside enclosure, while hospitality packages range from £390 through £678 and seats will go quickly, particularly if you are in town for The Derby on June 01. Visitors are advised to book your seats well in advance.
Epsom Race Course History
The town of Epsom came to be after mineral-rich water was discovered in the area in 1618. The water would later become known as Epsom Salts and drew in people from all over, leading to rapid expansion and the development of a spa town. After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the town received a 1667 visit from Samuel Pepys, who recorded his experience just as he had the Great Fire of London one year earlier, causing its popularity to increase tenfold.
Some of the first tales of racing held on the downs were recorded in 1648 when England was in a state of civil war between the Roundheads (parliamentarians) and the Cavaliers (royalists). A meeting was held there for royalists in the area disguised as a horse race so as not to arouse suspicion. In fact, there exists a document dated back to 1625 that tells of a man falling from his horse and breaking his neck during a race so some form of racing has long taken place there.
The racing of horses was actually banned during the war but was a regular and well-attended occasion nonetheless. When the war was over, racing’s legality was restored and the first recorded race meeting in the country was then held here at Epsom on the 7 March 1661, with King Charles II in attendance. By 1779, the first big race was established, one year before the Derby was staged for the first time.
The Derby itself has seen moments of tragedy, like in 1913 when suffragette Emily Davison, who wanted the right to vote, threw herself fatally under King George V’s horse. She is remembered by a trackside plaque that still stands today.
Epsom Race Course track configuration
There is one solitary left-handed, 12-furlong race track at Epsom Downs.
U-shaped course of 1 mile, 4 furlongs with steep furrows.
3 ½ furlong run-in with a distinctly downhill arc that rises in the track’s final furlong.
The 5-furlong track is the fastest in the world.
Epsom race track bias
In general, this isn’t a course that favors a particular type of horse, particularly over 5 furlongs. There is, however, an advantage for those horses racing over 6f and 7f, where front-runners that have been drawn low can enjoy an advantage except when soft. When the ground is soft, horses nearest the stand side rail are favored, hence the need for a strong front runner.
Stalls are positioned on the far rail of this turning left-handed track, and the highest four stalls can provide a tiny advantage, although even this is relatively slim at best.
For The Derby, the first half mile is raced uphill before it shoots downward, sweeping around the famous, and often decisive, Tattenham Corner. The race continues downhill until a furlong out when it rises again. Because of its up and down nature, a horse with differing gears will generally fare better. Epsom’s sprint courses, which are downhill, are the fastest in the world.
Epsom race track best trainers
With Epsom being such a prestigious course, all of the top flat trainers aim to bring their thoroughbreds to The Downs for a summer run. Owners and trainers fly in from around the world and we have seen winners here hail from as far afield as Dubai, Australia, and France.
Of course, some trainers have a better win rate here than others and it’s well worth familiarizing yourself with their names to give yourself an advantage when making your picks at Epsom’s biggest races.
- Roger Varian (35% win rate)
- Eve Johnson Houghton (23.33% win rate)
- John Gosden (21.21% win rate)
- Mark Johnston (19.51% win rate)
- Mick Channon (17.65% win rate)
Epsom race track best Jockeys
Over the years, Epsom has seen many legendary trainers and horses, and much the same can be said for jockeys. Of the current crop, they are many names that will one day rank alongside esteemed names of Frankie Dettori, Walter Swinburn, and Pat Eddery.
Drawn from all over the UK and Ireland as well as places further afield like Brazil and Italy, some of the most successful jockeys over the past half-decade will one day surely rank among the best. Be sure to keep an eye on them as the English flat season goes into full swing.
- Charles Bishop (39.13% win rate)
- Silvestre de Sousa (27.27% win rate)
- Franny Norton (25% win rate)
- David Probert (20% win rate)
- Lanfranco Dettori (18.52% win rate)
Epsom racing season
Over the 2019 season, Epsom race track will host more than ten meetings of approximately 6/7 races per meet. Meetings will take place in the afternoons, with a set of summertime evening races too, and the calendar here runs from April 24 through September 29.
Epsom’s season actually opens with the Spring Festival in April. The biggest weekend of its entire calendar and one of the most iconic events in the British sporting and social calendar. The Derby Festival is staged on the first weekend of June. The festival, which has now been shortened to two days, features the Group 1 Coronation Cup, the Diomed Stakes, Woodcote Stakes, and The Epsom Dash, which runs over five furlongs.
But, that said, The Derby is the main event of the festival, followed by The Oaks, which is the fillies equivalent of the Derby and is run the day before on what has been branded “Ladies Day”.
Other events held on Epsom Downs each summer include handicaps like The City and Suburban, The Grand Metropolitan, and The Blue Riband Trial Stakes. For the rest of the season, bettors will find a very enjoyable fixture list of top-level racing including a family friendly bank holiday fixture at the end of August.
Epsom race track stakes and Graded Stakes calendar for 2018
Wednesday 24th April 2019 – The Investec Spring Meeting – Turf – Afternoon
Friday 31st May 2019 – The Investec Derby Festival – The Oakes – Grade 1 – Turf – Afternoon
Saturday 1st June 2019 – The Investec Derby Festival – The Derby – Grade 1 – Turf – Afternoon
Thursday 4th July 2019 – Turf – Evening
Thursday 11th July 2019 – Turf – Evening
Thursday 18th July 2019 – Turf – Evening
Thursday 1st August 2019 – Turf – Evening
Monday 26th August 2019 – Turf – Bank Holiday – Afternoon
Tuesday 27th August 2019 – Turf – Afternoon
Thursday 12th September 2019 – Turf – Afternoon
Sunday 29th September 2019 – Turf – Afternoon
Epsom Race Course address and website
Epsom Downs Racecourse, Epsom, Surrey, KT18 5LQ, UK