By News Team
Last Updated: 8th September 2020
There are many well-known and prestigious races over the course of a season, but there are fewer bigger than The Derby.
Epsom Downs Racecourse has crowned more Derby champions than anywhere else in the world, with a roll of honour comprising 240 years of winners, dating back to the 12th Earl of Derby, who inaugurated the race in 1780.
Ahead of Saturday’s Derby, we’ve taken a look at some of the greatest Derby winners from years gone by.
Sea Bird (1965)
Look back through the tapes and you may not find a more effortless Derby winner than Sea Bird in 1965. The French raider was sent off the 7/4 favourite in a 22-runner renewal of the Epsom Classic and won the race by two lengths on the bridle.
Every horse behind him was being asked for maximum effort while Sea Bird cruised into the lead and won the race without a whip being drawn. It was an excellent performance which, along with his comfortable victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, has seen him rated as one of the best Flat horses of all time, second only to Frankel.
You can’t talk about the Derby without mentioning Nijinsky. Unbeaten as a two-year-old and arriving at Epsom having taken out the first leg of the Triple Crown in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, Vincent O’Brien’s son of Sea Bird, who’d won the Derby just five years earlier, was a red-hot 11/8 favourite and in 1970 he didn’t disappoint.
It looked for a moment that he and well-fancied French raider Gyr would go neck and neck in the final furlong, but when Lester Piggott cracked the whip, Nijinsky displayed a devastating turn of foot.
He went on to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 35 years, and no horse has done it since…
In all 240 years of the Derby, no horse has bettered Shergar’s 10-length romp from 1981. That eye-popping winning distance is the widest ever recorded and we’re unlikely to ever see such a performance again. He went on to win both the Irish Derby and King George at Ascot, though his retirement to stud in 1983, where he was expected to earn £1 million a season from covers, was cut short by a tragic kidnapping. Shergar was taken from Ballymany Stud and never seen again.
Slip Anchor (1985)
A breath-taking seven-length win for the late genius trainer Sir Henry Cecil, Slip Anchor’s victory in 1985 was one of the most one-horse races you’ll ever see at this level. He was half-a-dozen lengths clear rounding Tattenham Corner and nothing ever got any closer.
In the 2001 Derby, a true star of the sport was born in the shape of Galileo. It was pitted as a dust-up between him and Sir Michael Stoute’s Golan, with that pair filling the first two spots in a thrilling race, but Galileo stamped his class on the race by three-and-a-half lengths. Since, Galileo has gone on to sire 85 separate Group 1-winning horses, including three Derby winners and the great Frankel.
After 14 unsuccessful attempts, Frankie Dettori finally got his hands on Flat racing’s top prize with Authorized in 2007. The crowd favourite won on the race favourite by five lengths and that understandably had the 100,000 or so people in raptures across the Downs and in the stands.
Workforce is the fastest ever winner of the Derby, stopping the clock at 2:31.33 with a seven-length romp under Ryan Moore in 2010. That was Moore’s first triumph in the race, while interestingly he carried the second string green cap of Khalid Abdullah, with the supposed first string, Bullet Train, finishing last.
Golden Horn (2015)
A second Frankie Dettori-ridden winner and another renewal that sparked a frenzy in the crowds in 2015. John Gosden was looking for his first winner since Benny The Dip in 1997 and half of Epsom was on the Cape Cross colt at just 13/8. He prevailed by three-and-a-half lengths and then went on to win the Eclipse, Irish Champion Stakes and the Arc.
The blue silks of Godolphin are perhaps the most well-known silks across the globe, but not until 2018 were they seen in the Epsom winners’ enclosure after the Derby. Trying to turn the tables on the all-powerful Coolmore operation looked like climbing a mountain, but Godolphin managed to claim bragging rights with Masar in 2018, which was their first Classic win in five years.