The Investec Derby timeline – the history behind the great race

The Investec Derby at Epsom has long been the race that everyone wants to win. Here’s a brief timeline looking at what has happened in 239 years of Epsom’s prestigious British Classic.


The 6/4 favourite Diomed, ridden by Sam Arnull, beats eight rivals to win the first Derby, run over a mile for a prize of £1,065.

Portrait of Diomed. Credit: Thoroughbred Heritage


The race distance increases from a mile to a mile and a half (the official distance since 1991 has been one mile, four furlongs and 10 yards).


Eleanor is the first of six fillies to succeed. The others are Blink Bonny (1857), Shotover (1882), Signorinetta (1908), Tagalie (1912) and Fifinella (1916). Eleanor, Blink Bonny, Signorinetta and Fifinella also won the Oaks.


Gustavus is the first of four grey winners, followed by Tagalie (1912), Mahmoud (1936) and Airborne (1946). The most recent grey to finish in the first three was Kingston Hill, the 2014 runner-up.

Kingston Hill finishing runner up to Australia in the 2014 Derby


The first dead-heat is witnessed. Cadland then beats The Colonel by half a length in a run-off.


West Australian wins before becoming the first of 15 horses to gain the Triple Crown, comprising three Classics (2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger).


The present course, with the start moved to the hill opposite the grandstands, is used for the first time.


A unique year in that fillies won all five British Classics – Shotover (2000 Guineas and Derby), St Marguerite (1000 Guineas), Geheimniss (Oaks) and Dutch Oven (St Leger).


Ladas, at 2/9, is one of the shortest winning favourites of the race ever. His owner, the 5th Earl of Rosebery, who also scored with Sir Visto the following year, is the only man to have won the Derby while serving as Prime Minister.

Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery

Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery. Prime Minister 1894-1895 and Derby winning owner.


This is perhaps the most sensational Derby of all. On Tattenham Hill, militant suffragette Emily Davison sustains fatal injuries after running onto the track and bringing down the King’s horse Anmer.

Then the 6/4 favourite Craganour, who beat 100/1 shot Aboyeur in a rough finish, is disqualified by the stewards in favour of the outsider.

Day Comet, who clearly passed the post in third, was overlooked by the judge and assigned no official place, a mistake never corrected.


The race, called the New Derby, moves to Newmarket’s July Course for four war years, and is sponsored for the first time. As a one-off, the 17th Earl of Derby provided all the added prize money (£1,000).


Lady James Douglas is the first woman to own a Derby winner, with Gainsborough.


The Derby, won by Call Boy, is the first Flat race in England broadcast on radio by the BBC.


The Derby is televised by the BBC for the first time.


The race moves to Newmarket for six war years.


The result is decided with the aid of a photofinish for the first time. The winner, Nimbus beats both the French raider Amour Drake and Lord Derby’s Swallow Tail by a head.


Lester Piggott, aged 18, wins the first of his record nine Derbys, on Never Say Die, the second American-bred colt to triumph in the Classic. Lester Piggott still this day is the best ever Derby jockey.

Lester Piggott’s first win with Never Say Die


Starting stalls are used for the first time as Royal Palace wins.


The great Nijinsky becomes the 15th and most recent horse to gain the Triple Crown.


Shergar sets a record winning Derby distance of 10 lengths under 19-year-old Derby debutant Walter Swinburn.

Credit: BBC


One of the best racehorses of the 21st century, Galileo won the 2001 Derby by three and a half lengths providing trainer Aidan O’Brien with his first winner in the race. The champion racehorse went onto to become a champion sire, and he even sired three Derby winners in Australia, Ruler Of The World and New Approach.


Trainer Michael Bell enjoyed his first Derby success when Motivator scores in the colours of the Royal Ascot Racing Club, which is the first syndicate, with 230 members, to own a Derby winner.


Galileo’s half-brother Sea The Stars shows he is one of the greats as he powers to glory under veteran jockey Mick Kinane.

Sea The Stars was the first horse for 20 years to follow up victory in the 2000 Guineas with success in the Epsom Classic and goes on to complete an unbeaten campaign with four further Group 1 wins.


Camelot becomes the 37th horse to win both the 2000 Guineas and the Derby as he records a convincing five-length win.

Jockey and trainer, Joseph and Aidan O’Brien, are the first father/ son combination to win the premier Classic.


Australia provides trainer Aidan O’Brien an unprecedented third consecutive Investec Derby success and his fifth in total.


Supplementary entry Golden Horn hands Frankie Dettori his second Investec Derby success (first was Authorized in 2007). Golden Horn ends the year as the highest-rated horse in Europe.


Wings Of Eagles proved a shock 40/1 winner, it was Aidan O’Brien’s sixth winner in the race and if Saxon Warrior justifies favouritism on Saturday O’Brien will become the joint most successful Derby trainer of all-time!


Masar became the first Godolphin winner of the Derby.


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