The Most Historic Race in the World - By Mohit Lalvani
Posted on - 30 Jan 2013
The Most Historic Race in the World
By Mohit Lalvani
Ask any owner why he buys a horse and he’ll tell you it’s because he wants to win the Derby. In fact, in any racing country, the mention of the word Derby immediately relates to the best horse race in the world and like the US, France and all other major racing nations, the origins of the Indian Derby can be sourced from its older counterpart, the Epsom Derby.
Run just South of London in June each year the Derby has a story that is romantic, magical and also shows how chance can play a role in creating history.
In 1780, The 12th Earl of Derby who hosted lavish parties before race meetings at his estate known as “the Oaks” instituted a race for 3 year old fillies over a mile and a half and called it the Oaks. This was run at Epsom and the first Epsom Oaks was won by Lord Derby’s filly itself, Bridget. That night, over celebrations and many glasses of the local brew, it was decided to hold a similar race for three year old colts andwith all other conditions drawn up and only the name to be decided, the choices came down to either Derby or one of the other guests that evening, the Earl of Bunbury, a racing patron himself.
After much debate and argument which was obviously amplified with the alcohol that the two men had in their system the matter was unresolved. In order to avoid an absolute bloodbath, one of the guests decided that a coin should be tossed to settle the issue and the rest, as they say, was history. In fact, history will note that Lord Derby won the toss but for which the most famous race in the world would have been known as the Bunbury Stakes!
Ironically however, in a quid pro quo of sorts, the racing Gods and fates granted the first running of this race to the Earl of Bunbury who won the race with his colt called Diomed. It was, as most would agree to, small compensation for losing out on the chance to become the most important name in the world of horse racing.
The Derby is the most important jewel of any ‘Triple Crown’ in the world and like in the UK is the second leg of the ‘Triple Crown’ in India, with the first being the 2000 Guineas and the third, the St. Leger. The three races stretch a thoroughbred from a mile to a mile and three quarters with the Derby over a mile a half.
In India, the first ever running of the Derby was during the 1942-43 season and the race was won by Princess Beautiful. Twenty Eight years ago, the Indian Derby found a sponsor in United Sprits Limited and in 2013, the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby as it is known today, will carry a prize money of three crore rupees making it, pound for pound, the richest sporting event in India at over a crore per minute of actual race performance.
On the first Sunday of February, Derby day, approximately twenty horses will line-up for a shot at being recorded in to history, a chance they will never get again. The McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby is open to four year olds only and if they falter at 60km/hour, for even a fraction, they won’t get a second chance. A single champion will be crowned and India’s greatest race horse will be discovered, even if only for a year.