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The Epsom Derby through the decades
Tattenham Corner Epsom Derby
The Derby is one of the most highly anticipated horse races in the British sporting calendar. As one of the five Classics of British flat racing, the race carries huge significance, and is steeped in history and tradition. The Derby is usually held on the first Saturday of June each year, but this year is set to be a little different as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought racing to a standstill since March 17th, when all racing was suspended.

There is still every hope that all the five Classics will be held this year, but they might look a bit different than usual due to the restrictive measures put in place to ensure the safety of jockeys, trainers and all other personnel at the meetings. But hopefully it won’t be long before we’re all enjoying some live action and watching the fast results on horse racing roll in once more.

All in all, it will represent a strange beginning to a new decade of horse racing, and a new decade in the history of the Derby. Perhaps, in light of this odd start to the next ten years of the Derby, which has been held since 1780, it’s a good time to reflect on the history of the famous race. Here, we look back at how the Derby panned out at the beginning of each of the last five decades.

1970, Winner: Nijinsky

Lester Piggott is a name synonymous with success in flat racing, and is widely regarded as one of the sport’s finest jockeys of all time. He won the fifth of his nine Derbies in 1970 on Nijinsky by a relatively comfortable margin of two and a half lengths. Nijinsky’s trainer was Vincent O’Brien, who was no relation to currently active trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has enjoyed fine success in the Classics over the years, although Aidan did take over Vincent’s Ballydoyle stables upon the latter’s retirement.

1980, Winner: Henbit

Ten years later, the decade began as the previous one had ended. Jockey Willie Carson and trainer Dick Hern were the winning duo with Henbit, just as they had been a year previously with Troy. It was a tighter race in 1980 though, with Henbit winning by just half a length. There was to be no hat-trick of successive triumphs in 1981, however, as the now infamous Shergar ran out victorious.  

1990, Winner: Quest for Fame

The 1990 Derby saw Quest for Fame emerge victorious, ridden by Pat Eddery and trained by Roger Charlton. It was a reasonably comfortable margin of victory in the end, as Eddery and Quest for Fame held off the challenges of Blue Stag and Elmaamul to win by three lengths. It was the third and final time Eddery would win the Derby, while it was Charlton’s one and only success in the famous race.

2000, Winner: Sinndar

The turn of the millennium brought success in the Derby for Sinndar, jockey Johnny Murtagh and trainer John Oxx. Sinndar was notable for winning the Epsom Derby, the Irish Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the same year, earning significant success and recognition for both Oxx and Murtagh. The Epsom Derby win was a close one, as Sinndar eclipsed Sakhee and Beat Hollow to earn the victory.

2010, Winner: Workforce

In 2010, the Derby was won for the first time by jockey Ryan Moore, as he rode the 7/1 Workforce to a commanding seven-length victory. It was a fifth win for trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who had trained Shergar to victory in the Derby 29 years previously. Moore would go on to win the Derby again in 2013, and boasts a fine record in flat racing, having been Champion Jockey on three occasions. He remains a force to be reckoned with today, and will no doubt have his sights set on a third Derby crown ahead of the 2020 edition.

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