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Since its inauguration in 1780 by the 12th Earl of Derby, the Epsom Derby has stood as a marquee event in the British horse racing calendar. As a result, the historic Epsom Downs Racecourse has witnessed exceptional equine talent and riveting races for over two centuries.
So let’s journey through some of the most memorable Epsom Derby winners gracing this legendary event.
Sea Bird’s 1965 victory is a sight to behold in the annals of the Epsom Derby. The French horse, a favorite at 7/4, effortlessly outperformed 22 other contenders and won the race by two lengths without the whip being drawn. This performance and his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victory established Sea Bird as one of the greatest flat racehorses, second only to the iconic Frankel.
A conversation about the Epsom Derby would be incomplete without the mention of Nijinsky. As a two-year-old, trained by Vincent O’Brien and sired by Sea-Bird, Nijinsky was unbeaten. Arriving at Epsom after securing the first leg of the Triple Crown at Newmarket in the 2000 Guineas, he confirmed his favoritism by winning the Derby in 1970. Later, he would become the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 35 years – a feat no horse has achieved since.
Shergar’s performance in 1981 remains unparalleled in Derby’s history. The horse won by an astonishing 10-length margin, the widest ever recorded in Derby’s 240 years. Afterward, he secured victories in the Irish Derby and King George at Ascot. Unfortunately, however, Shergar’s promising stud career was cut short by a tragic and mysterious kidnapping in 1983.
Slip Anchor (1985)
Crafted by the genius trainer Sir Henry Cecil, Slip Anchor’s triumphant race in 1985 is one of the most prominent one-horse shows in Derby history. Leading by half-a-dozen lengths after rounding Tattenham Corner, no horse challenged him.
The 2001 Derby heralded the arrival of a new star in horse racing – Galileo. A riveting duel with Sir Michael Stoute’s Golan ended with Galileo asserting his dominance with a three-and-a-half-length win. Since then, Galileo has sired 85 Group 1-winning horses, including three Derby winners and the legendary Frankel.
Frankie Dettori, a crowd favorite, finally tasted the joy of Derby victory with Authorized in 2007 after 14 unsuccessful attempts. His five-length victory sent the 100,000 spectators at Epsom Downs into ecstatic celebration.
Workforce entered Derby’s history books by winning the fastest race in 2010, clocking in at 2:31.33. Jockey Ryan Moore steered Workforce to a spectacular seven-length victory, marking his first win at the Derby.
Golden Horn (2015)
In 2015, Frankie Dettori rode his second Epsom Derby winner with Golden Horn, sparking joy among the crowds. Trained by John Gosden, Golden Horn won by three-and-a-half lengths and later secured victories in the Eclipse, Irish Champion Stakes, and the Arc.
2018 marked a historic moment when the iconic blue silks of Godolphin claimed their first Epsom Derby victory with Masar. Breaking a five-year Classic win drought, Masar’s victory was a first for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby.
Anthony Van Dyck (2019)
The 2019 Derby victory of Anthony Van Dyck added another feather to the cap of master trainer Aidan O’Brien. Displaying his fighting spirit and tenacity, Anthony Van Dyck overcame a tightly contested field to win by half a length. His victory epitomized the balance of courage, strategy, and speed at the Epsom Derby’s heart.
The 2020 edition of the Epsom Derby saw another Aidan O’Brien-trained horse, Serpentine, pull off a stunning wire-to-wire victory. The colt led the race right from the start and extended his lead to a striking five-and-a-half length at the finish line, confounding pundits and viewers alike.
Completing our journey, we have Adayar from 2021. Trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by Adam Kirby, Adayar recorded a convincing victory, storming clear by four-and-a-half lengths. This victory marked another milestone for Godolphin and solidified their continued prominence in horse racing.
The Epsom Derby, with its illustrious history and compelling narratives, remains a pinnacle of horse racing. The stories of these legendary winners serve as a testament to equine excellence and the dedication and passion of the trainers, jockeys, and teams behind them. This blend of talent, teamwork, and competition ensures the Derby will continue to captivate audiences and create memorable champions for years.
The Epsom Derby continues to be a thrilling spectacle for horse racing enthusiasts worldwide. These notable horses and their unforgettable performances encapsulate the spirit and excitement that make the Derby an enduring icon in the horse racing world.
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