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Epsom Downs Racecourse

Coordinates: 51°18′35″N 0°15′20″W / 51.30972°N 0.25556°W / 51.30972; -0.25556
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Epsom Downs
Aerial view of Epsom Downs racecourse
LocationEpsom, Surrey, UK
Operated byJockey Club Racecourses
Date opened1661 (first recorded race)
Screened onRacing TV
Course typeFlat
Notable racesEpsom Derby
Epsom Oaks
Coronation Cup
Official website

Epsom Downs is a Grade 1 racecourse in a hilly area near Epsom in Surrey, England which is used for thoroughbred horse racing. The "Downs" referred to in the name are part of the North Downs.

The course has a crowd capacity of 130,000 including people watching from the Epsom Downs, an area freely open to the public.[1] The course is best known for hosting the Derby Stakes, which has come to be widely referred to as The Derby or as the Cazoo Derby for sponsorship reasons, the United Kingdom's premier thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old colts and fillies, over a mile and a half (2400 m). It also hosts the Oaks Stakes (also widely referred to as The Oaks) for three-year-old fillies, and the Coronation Cup for horses aged four years and upwards. All three races are Group 1 races and run over the same course and distance.

The Chairman of the course since 2022 is Brian Finch.[2] The course is owned by the Jockey Club. Queen Elizabeth II attended the Derby in most years of her reign.


The first recorded race was held on the Downs in 1661,[3] although a local burial list of 1625 refers to "William Stanley who in running the race fell from his horse and brake his neck" and in some sources racing is recorded as dating from the 1640s,[4] so it is likely that racing was established much earlier than that.[5] Epsom is referenced in the diary of Samuel Pepys in 1663 and Charles II is said to have been a racegoer there.[5] By 1684, Epsom had a clerk of the course and from 1730 was hosting twice yearly race meetings.[5]

At Epsom on 3 May 1769 the famous racehorse Eclipse had the first of his many victories in an undefeated career on the turf.

In the summer of 1779 Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby, organised a race for himself and his friends to race their three-year-old fillies. He named it the Oaks after his nearby estate. The race became so successful that in the following year 1780 a new race was added for three-year-old colts and fillies—-the Derby. In 1784 the course was extended to its current distance of a mile and a half and Tattenham Corner was introduced.[6]

Henry Dorling, step-father to cookery writer Mrs Beeton, was a Clerk of the Course at Epsom, appointed in 1840.[7]

In 1913 the suffragette Emily Davison threw herself in front of King George V's horse Anmer, bringing him down. Davison was badly injured and died four days later.[8]

In 1952 the racecourse was featured extensively in the film Derby Day set around the 1952 Epsom Derby.[9]

In 2009 the racecourse opened the new Duchess's Stand. It has a capacity of 11,000 and has a 960 m2 (10 000 sq ft) hall. It can be used for banqueting, conferences and exhibitions. The estimated cost of the new stand, which was built by Willmott Dixon, was £23.5 million.[10]

On 4 June 2011, in their first public outing since returning from their Seychelles honeymoon, Prince William, now the Prince of Wales, and his wife, Catherine, (along with the late Queen, William's brother, Prince Harry, and Catherine's parents, Michael and Carole Middleton) attended the 2011 Epsom Derby at the track.[11]

In 2022 the main stand of the racecourse, previously been known as The Queen's Stand, was renamed the Queen Elizabeth II Stand.[12]


Tattenham Corner in 1872, by Gustave Doré

The racecourse is between Epsom, Tadworth and Langley Vale. As it is in a public area, people can watch the Derby free, and this meant that the Derby used to be the most attended sporting event of the year. It presents a stern challenge for inexperienced horses and a true test of stamina for those that might previously have contested the 2,000 Guineas Stakes over a mile (1600 m). Unusually, the racecourse is not a circuit but is roughly U-shaped with chutes for the start of sprint races over five, six and seven furlongs. The Derby course features an ascent to the top of the hill followed by a wide, sweeping left turn (Tattenham Corner) as the horses descend towards the straight. The half-mile straight is mainly downhill, with a final sharp ascent in the last hundred yards. Thus the times for the sprint races tend to be much faster than those on flatter tracks.[13] Clockings for the five-furlong course have included 53.6 s (hand-timed) by Indigenous in 1960 and 53.70 s (electrically-timed) by Spark Chief in 1983.[14]

Racehorse trainers based in the local area include Simon Dow and Laura Mongan.[15]

The racecourse is served by the Epsom Downs station[16] as well as Tattenham Corner station, which is where the British monarch alights from the Royal Train on race days.[17]

Notable races[edit]

Month Meeting DOW Race Name Type Grade Distance Age/Sex
April April Meeting Wednesday City and Suburban Handicap Flat Handicap 1m 2f 17y 4yo +
April April Meeting Wednesday Great Metropolitan Handicap Flat Handicap 1m 4f 6y 4yo +
April April Meeting Wednesday Blue Riband Trial Stakes Flat Conditions 1m 2f 17y 3yo only
June Derby Friday Woodcote Stakes Flat Conditions 6f 3y 2yo only
June Derby Friday The Oaks Flat Group 1 1m 4f 6y 3yo only f
June Derby Friday Coronation Cup Flat Group 1 1m 4f 6y 4yo +
June Derby Friday Surrey Stakes Flat Listed 7f 3y 3yo
June Derby Saturday Princess Elizabeth Stakes Flat Group 3 1m 113y 3yo + f
June Derby Saturday Diomed Stakes Flat Group 3 1m 113y 3yo +
June Derby Saturday The Derby Flat Group 1 1m 4f 6y 3yo c + f
Other races


Views of the Epsom Grandstands


  1. ^ Osborne, Alistair (1 June 2012). "Derby draws record crowds as racecourses buck recession". Archived from the original on 15 April 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2018 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  2. ^ "Brian Finch to succeed Julia Budd as Chairman of Epsom Downs". The Jockey Club. 17 May 2022. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  3. ^ "History". Epsom Downs Racecourse. Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  4. ^ Barrett, Norman, ed. (1995). The Daily Telegraph Chronicle of Horse Racing. Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Publishing. p. 8.
  5. ^ a b c Holland 1991, p. 10.
  6. ^ "Epsom Downs History". Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  7. ^ Beetham, Margaret (2004). "Beeton, Isabella Mary (1836–1865)" (available online through UK public libraries, also in printed form). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37172. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2008.
  8. ^ Emily Davison (1872 - 1913) Archived 12 December 2019 at the Wayback Machine BBC History
  9. ^ Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000
  10. ^ 'Freak' winds blamed for ripped roof at Epsom Downs racecourse Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine The Guardian, 10 January 2012
  11. ^ "Queen's hope to win Derby goes on". BBC News. 4 June 2011. Archived from the original on 23 June 2018. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  12. ^ "The Queen Elizabeth II Stand, Epsom Downs". 20 June 2022.
  13. ^ "Epsom Downs Course Guide - At The Races". At The Races. Archived from the original on 26 February 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  14. ^ John Randall (24 December 2005). "Ask the anorak: Raffingora record just one facet of a high-class sprinter". www.thefreelibrary.com. Racing Post. Archived from the original on 26 February 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  15. ^ Less, Jon (27 August 2017). "Meet the horses: Epsom stables ready to show off their stars". Racing Post. Retrieved 30 March 2023.
  16. ^ Marius, Callum (8 December 2021). "The peculiar Zone 6 railway station that 'looks like it's in somebody's back garden'". MyLondon. Retrieved 30 March 2023.
  17. ^ Oppitz, Leslie (2002). Lost railways of Surrey. Reading: MRM. p. 131. ISBN 1-85306-771-7.


External links[edit]

51°18′35″N 0°15′20″W / 51.30972°N 0.25556°W / 51.30972; -0.25556