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…
WELCOME TO PADDY POWER NEWS!
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 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.
Desert Crown won the Derby by two-and-a-half lengths in 2022, ahead of 150/1 outsider Hoo Ya Mal.
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.
DON’T KNOW YOUR ALL-WEATHER FROM YOUR WIND OPERATION? WELL, WE’VE GOT ALL THE ANSWERS IN OUR HORSE RACING EXPLAINERS SECTION
- Why are there false starts in horse races like the Grand National?
- How many horses are there in the Grand National?
- Grand National prize money: How much does the Grand National winner get?
- 9 things to consider when picking a Grand National winner
- Grand National fence names and the stories behind every Aintree jump
- How high are Grand National fences at Aintree Racecourse?
- What are Grand National fences made of at Aintree Racecourse?
- Grand National fences: Order of jumps, total and which are taken twice
- Grand National weights: Why do horses carry different weights at Aintree?
- How many people usually attend the Grand National? What is Aintree’s capacity?
- What is the distance of the Grand National? How far do the horses run?
- How does a horse qualify for the Grand National?
- When did a horse last win the Grand National carrying top weight?
- Do Grand National reserve horses ever run in the race at Aintree?
- What does it mean when a horse is On the Bridle?
- What is a Black type horse race?
- What are the different types of going in horse racing?
- What is a bumper horse race?
- What are blinkers and why do some horses wear them?
- What is an Allowance Race in horse racing?
- What is the difference between hurdles and fences in National Hunt racing?
- What is a halter and why do some horses wear them?
- What does it mean when a horse has spread a plate?
- What is the Rule 4 betting rule in horse racing?
- What is the difference between graded, handicap and selling horse races?
- What does a novice hurdle in horse racing mean?
- What is a listed horse race?
- What does a novice chase in horse racing mean?
- Why do race horses have different ratings and what do they mean?
- When does the National Hunt season start and when does it end?
- Why are there different grades of horse race?
- Why are there 3 different types of National Hunt race?
- Why are race horses given different weights and what does it mean?
- How many different classes of horse race are there?
- What is a claiming race and what do they mean?
- What is an optional claimer in horse racing?
- What is a shadow roll and why do some race horses wear them?
- Why do some races start from stalls and some not?
- What is the difference between Derby and Oaks races?
- What does it mean when a horse knuckles during a horse race?
- What is a stayer in horse racing?
- What is a yearling horse and when are they ready to race?
- What does it mean if a horse has won a point race?
- What does a maiden mean in horse racing?
- How are horses’ ages calculated and why is it not the same as humans?
- What advantages do apprentice jockeys get when riding against professionals?
- What is a conditional jockey?
- What does the term ‘connections’ mean in horse racing?
- Why do some horses wear cheekpieces?
- Who are the stewards in horse racing?
- What does ‘weighed in’ mean at the end of a horse race?
- What is a nursery race?
- Why are some National Hunt races run without fences?
- Why are some horses given a tongue tie during races?
- What does it mean when a horse is ‘pushed out’?
- How are horse racing ratings calculated?
- What does it mean when a horse has a ‘wind operation’?
- How high are the fences and hurdles in horse racing?
- What is an apprentice jockey?
- What is a Bull Ring in horse racing?
- What does the phrase ‘Look of Eagles’ mean in horse racing?
- Why do some horses wear a ‘weight cloth’ during races?
- What is the Triple Crown in horse racing?
- What is a Steeplechase race in horse racing?
- How high are the Cheltenham Festival fences and hurdles?
- Why is the Champion Chase named after the Queen Mother?
- Why does Cheltenham racecourse have an Old Course and a New Course? What’s the differences between the two?
- What is the Cheltenham roar? What difference does it make in races?
- Why are there no jumps in the Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper?
- How many fans usually attend the Cheltenham Festival? How big is the capacity?
- What is a juvenile in horse racing?
- What is a sire and a dam? Why is breeding so important in horse racing?
- What’s the difference between a colt, filly, gelding, stallion and mare?
- What does it mean when a horse goes to stud?
- What do horse racing commentators mean by sectional times?
- What is the Royal Procession at Royal Ascot? Which members of the Royal Family attend?
- How do they choose Epsom Derby stall numbers? Is there a draw bias?
- How long does it take horses to complete the Epsom Derby? How fast are the runners?
- What has happened to the Queen’s racehorses?
- What is a stewards’ enquiry in horse racing?
- What does it mean when a horse is exposed?
- What happens when there is a dead-heat in horse racing?
- What does the Clerk of the Course do in horse racing?
- What does schooling mean in horse racing?
- How are horses named and who approves them?
- Men must wear socks and other weird Royal Ascot dress codes
- Market movers: What is a market mover in horse racing?
- What is a Ladies’ Day in horse racing and why do they exist?
- Where’s the toilet and how much is a beer – Paddy’s guide to Cheltenham
- How many horse racing courses are there in the UK? Full list
- Top 8 most famous race horses of all time
- 8 of the best retired UK and Irish jockeys
LIKE PADDY POWER NEWS? OR MAYBE YOU JUST LIKE TO WHINGE? TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN OUR READER SURVEY
THE PADDY POWER GUIDE TO RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING – EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW