How long does it take horses to complete the Epsom Derby? How fast are the runners?

The Epsom Derby is the biggest race in the Flat season and one of the most exciting

Epsom Derby time and course length


The Epsom Derby is the pinnacle of the Flat racing season but if you’re new to horse racing betting then you might not know much about this famous old course. Epsom has stood as a racecourse since the mid-18th century and has produced some of the world’s most famous sporting spectacles down the years.

Known for its almighty climb within the horseshoe bend, the Epsom Derby course is a challenge for even the very best thoroughbreds. And yet down the years winners have gradually shaved off more split-seconds for the fastest recorded Derby time.

Here, Paddy Power is on hand to explain everything you need to know about the history of Epsom’s winning times, and how fast horses run at this glorious racecourse, in our latest Demystifying Racing guide…

How long is the Derby course at Epsom Downs?

The Derby course at Epsom is one and a half miles from start to finish. You may see it written out as 1mile, 4furlongs and 6yards. The Epsom course is a horseshoe shape that runs anti-clockwise round a left-sided bend and onto the straight in front of the grandstands.

As a course it is one of the most challenging flat runs in horse racing thanks to the dramatic steep climb in the opening third. In other events races may start at the top of the hill at the 6f or 7f start points, but the Epsom Derby starts way back near Langley Bottom.

The horses bolt out of the stalls and must immediately navigate a right-hand kink in the course before heading uphill. This kink acts as a funnel point where horses drawn in the higher gate positions usually earn an advantage.

The present course has been in operation for the Derby since 1872. Between 1848 and 1871 the starting position was based on what was called the New Course, which was lower down the hill, meaning an even greater climb for the riders.

Epsom Derby time and course length

The horses pick up speed in the Epsom Derby as they charge downhill towards the post (GETTY)

Epsom Derby fastest winning time

The fastest winning time for the Derby at Epsom was Workforce at two minutes and 33.31 seconds in 2010. Workforce, ridden by jockey Ryan Moore, was the joint-third favourite at racing betting odds of 6/1 and stormed to victory to beat 100/1 outsider At First Sight by seven lengths. The going that day was good to firm – perfect conditions for swift Derby race.

In the last 20 years five horses have won the Epsom Derby by less than a length. The sprint down the hill can be a real lottery and in 2006 Sir Percy, ridden by Martin Dwyer, won by a nose ahead of Dragon Dancer and Dylan Thomas.

Now, pub quiz nerds will actually point out that the fastest Derby time is two minutes and 26.6 seconds, recorded by Dante in 1945. While it’s true that jockey Billy Nevett rode Dante to Derby success that year in that time, the race wasn’t actually contested at Epsom. Instead, it was run at Newmarket during the Second World War – a course that doesn’t feature as step a climb as Epsom.

How fast is Epsom?

As a racecourse Epsom is famed for being one of the fastest in the UK and Ireland. Races that start on the Straight Mile from the flat 5f position are effectively a direct sprint to the line. Ornate won the Investec Dash Handicap on Derby Day in 2019 on the 5f course, clocking an average speed of 41.67mph.

However, when taking the full Derby course into account it’s unlikely we will ever see a horse average those speeds up the hill! But as an average, winning horses run at around 34mph during the Epsom Derby.



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