Epsom Derby System

The Epsom Derby System

The Epsom Derby is one of the oldest and one of the most famous races in the world and the top Group 1 Classic race in the English calendar.
It is run around the Epsom course on turf over a distance of 1m 4f 6y, and in 2022 is sponsored by Cazoo, the online car retailer, with a top prize for the winner of £850,650.

The story of this race originates as a celebration following the first running of the Oaks Stakes in 1779. A new race was planned, and it was decided that it should be named after the host of the party, the 12th Earl of Derby.

The first race was run on Thursday 4 May 1780 and was won by Diomed, a colt owned by Sir Charles Bunbury, who collected prize money of £1,065 15s, quite a haul in those days. The first four runs were run over 1 mile, but this was amended to the current distance of 1 mile 4 furlongs in 1784. For most of its modern history, the race was run on a Wednesday, but due to dwindling TV attendances and TV figures, it was moved to a Saturday in 1995.

The Derby is a Group 1 Classic and sits in between the 2000 Guineas and the St Leger as one of the classics open to 3-year-old colts. To win all 3 races is to win the Triple Crown and this is a feat not often achieved, the last winner being Nijinsky in 1970. However, the Derby is also one of the 3 Classics that can be raced by both Colts and Fillies, the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby, and the closing classic of the year, the St. Leger. 
The last filly to win a Derby was called Fifinella who, in 1916, won a "substitute" Derby run at Newmarket and, just for good measure, won the so-called "New Oaks", over the same course and distance, two days later. Since then there have been no filliy winners of the Derby as most fillies stick to the Oaks which is run over the same course and distance as the Derby, just like the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas. Therefore the chances of seeing a filly race in both Guineas races and the Oaks and Derby are nearly impossible, mainly due to the races being raced a day apart from each other at the weekend. 

Unlike the other most famous English race, the Grand National, the Derby is a flat race run usually with between 8 and 14 runners and the winner usually goes on to contend the Prix de l’Arc d’Triomphe in Paris or British Champions Day a bit later than the first Sunday of October which the Arc races on. That is unless they have already won the 2,000 Guineas in which they may, like the 2012 contender Camelot, try for the Triple Crown by racing in the St. Leger at Doncaster.

Picking a Derby winner is not always an easy task although in many years there has been a clear-cut favourite with odds under 3/1 such as the 8/13 odds on winner Camelot in 2012 or the Queen’s losing 5/2 favourite Carlton House in 2011.

However, if you look at the Derby statistics there have been winners with prices regularly over 5/1 including a run of 5 years between 1995 and 2000 in which all the winners had starting prices between 6/1 and 20/1.

The highest-priced winner in recent years was Snow Knight in 1974 at 50/1 which followed the previous years winner, Morston at a price of 25/1.

However, there are some key statistics that are worth following when picking a horse for the Derby.

In recent years the winners of 2-year-old races such as the Dewherst Stakes at Newmarket or the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster have fared well in their 3rd year with 5 out of the last 10 winners having won either one of these races. 

If they then start their 3rd year by winning the 2,000 Guineas then they should be looked at very closely for the Derby. Some may go off to become specific milers as Kingman or Frankel did, whilst others go on to race in the Derby and longer races like Camelot.
If the horse is a Ballydoyle Irish raider, then check the parents as if it has been sired by Galileo as most AP O'Brien runners are, and now that Galileo has passed on, we have about 2 years left of Galileo colts and fillies to be bred and sold before Frankel who was obviously a son of Galileo himself, takes over at Coolmore.
Remember Galileo horses are those with the perfect stamina, speed, and temperament for racing over the Derby distance. A read-up on horse breeding might help you understand a little bit more about the types of Sire you should be looking for if you require different characteristics in a runner. 
The following new page of mine shows some of the top Sires that Derby winners have come from, usually for a hefty fee. If you see the following names under your horse's family tree when other form is lacking then sometimes parentage can be enough.      

Also in the classic year, the Group 3 Chester Vase, as well as the Group 2 Dante Stakes at the York May meeting, have proved very good tests at providing clues to which 3-year-old colt may do well in the Derby. Many people have picked their Derby choice purely on the winner of the Dante alone. For Fillies, the Listed Cheshire Oaks, raced on the same day at the Cheshire Vase is often a good clue for Epsom Oaks choices.

The Irish trainer, AP O'Brien, for example, says that the Chester Vase is one of the best tests out there for a possible Derby entrant, so always pay attention to who he puts forward in that event considering he has won so many Oaks and Derby events in recent years.

Key statistics that should help narrow down your selection include:
  • Only 15 out of the last 42 races have been won by the favourite.
  • 10 out of 10 – won over at least 7 furlongs as a two-year-old.
  • 10 out of 10 – made their debut at a Group 1 track.
  • 9 out of 10 – had a pre Derby Racing Post rating of at least 119.
  • 9 out of 10 – had between 3 and 7 career runs.
  • 9 out of 10 – recorded their best Racing Post rating in their preceding race.
  • 8 out of 10 – have had at least 2 juvenile runs.
  • 7 out of 10 – achieved a Racing Post rating as a juvenile of at least 112.
  • 7 out of 10 – won their last race.
  • 7 out of 10 – were unbeaten since winning their debut.
  • 6 out of 10 – won over at least 1m 2f at three years old.

Unlike the Grand National this is not a “pick n mix” race where a number of bets can be placed due to the high prices of all the runners including the favourite. 
Therefore you should spend some time analysing the stats when picking your next Derby contender and just blindly following the favourite is NOT a profitable system for this English Group 1 Classic.

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