How did Derby in horse racing originate?

December 21, 2016 | Author: | Posted in Gambling & Casinos, Horse Racing

The Derby race is an annual horse race held on the famous race course at Epsom, England. Epsom is in Surrey, about fifteen miles from London, and has been noted for its races since the reign of James I,
successor of Queen Elizabeth. In 1779, during the reign of George III and in the midst of the American Revolution, a group of Derbyshire sportsmen got up what they called a “dinner race” at Epsom. Out of
this race grew the English Oaks. The next year-178o — the Earl of Derby offered a prize for an annual race at Epsom and this event came to be known as the Derby. Previously the Earl of Derby had sponsored a similar race on the Isle of Man. Only three-year-old horses are admitted to the Derby, and a large entrance fee is required. The first prize is about $25,000. The distance is one mile, four furlongs and twenty-nine yards. In normal times Parliament adjourns on “Derby Day” and great multitudes of people from all parts of the British Isles flock to the Epsom Downs race course. The event is somewhat like a country fair, and days before the race all sorts of gypsy outfits and carnival paraphernalia are set up on the bare heath around the horseshoe-shaped course. In imitation of the English Derby there are now the Kentucky Derby in the United States and the French Derby in France. Derby is sometimes loosely applied to the chief race on any track. The term has been extended even to other sporting events, and nowadays one hears of dog derbies, boat derbies, soapbox derbies, and even stork (baby) derbies. In southern England derby is generally pronounced dar-by, and that is the way the name is pronounced by the Earl of Derby, but in the United States and elsewhere in the English-speaking world it is generally pronounced der-by. In Derbyshire, England, the name is locally pronounced der-by, just as it is in the United States. The Oxford dictionary says dar-by is “a Southern (not the local) pronunciation of Derby, an English town or shire.”

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