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The Most Historic Race in the World - By Mohit Lalvani

Posted on - 31 Jan 2011

The Most Historic Race in the World
By Mohit Lalvani
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 shows how chance plays a role in creating history.
In 1780, The 12th Earl of Derby who hosted lavish parties before race meets 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, 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. With 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 left the matter unresolved, a coin was tossed and the rest, as they say, was history. 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 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.

Jacqueline winning last years McDowell Signature Indian Derby (Gr.1) from Becket
The first Derby in India was run in the year 1942 and was won by the filly Princess Beautiful. The Derby is the most prestigious race run during the year and the Mahalaxmi track where it is held each year carries the memories of many a great champion in years gone by.
The prize money also saw a drastic upturn with Princess Beautiful winning a share of just Rs. 35,000. With USL coming in as sponsors 27 years ago, this year’s winner will take home a lion’ share of Rs. 1.3 crores.
Many will debate on which the greatest McDowell Signature Indian Derby winner was and the names that spring to mind are Squanderer, Elusive Pimpernel, and Jacqueline, last year’s heroine. This year’s favourite is likely to be the 2000 Guineas winner, Ocean and Beyond who will look to provide his owners with their first ever McDowell Signature Indian Derby and an indelible mark in history.
The McDowell Signature Indian Derby is the second and most prestigious leg of the Indian Triple Crown – the 2000 Guineas and St. Leger being the other two.
Ranjit Bhat won four Indian Derbys in five years from 1976 to 1980 including 3 in a row.

Only Red Rufus, Squanderer, Almanac and Smart Chieftain won the Triple Crown and the Invitation Cup.
The first time in 1988 that Dr.Vijay Mallya had Derby entrants saw his horses finishing 1st, 2nd & 3rd.
Jacqueline, the 2010 winner, holds the record for the fastest Derby with a time of 2:28.54 minutes. She is now abroad as a broodmare.
In 1999 Saddle Up won the Derby and got disqualified for testing positive. He went on to become Horse of the Year in Singapore and now has the traditional Derby cocktail named after him.

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