At 4:30 this afternoon, 241 miles from our front door, the 238th Epsom Derby will be run. One mile, four furlongs and ten yards (2,423 metres) separates horses, jockeys, trainers and owners from the greatest prize in global flat racing. It may be 241 miles away, but it feels like it’s happening right next door. Why?
Because until we moved to Merseyside sixteen months ago, it was right next door. We lived just a few minutes walk from the stunning Epsom Downs with its unique undulations and spectacular views towards central London. For the racing fan the ability to walk the course all year round to see for yourself the amazing, legendary, drop from the top of the hill to Tottenham Corner and the camber on the final straight was something to behold. Like all great theatres of sport, being able to walk in the footsteps of the all time greats took your breath away.
There is politics and social history too with the chance to stand at the point where in 1913 Emily Davison, a hero of the suffragette movement, stepped in front of the King’s horse in The Derby to draw attention to the fight for women’s rights. She died four days later from her injuries – after dodging death several times before during her many hunger strikes (being force fed 49 times). The events of 1913 are commemorated on the course with a plague which is covered in fresh flowers all year round – and the naming of a road which overlooks the course.
History is all around you at Epsom – it was even mentioned in Samuel Pepys diaries in 1663 before the big race was a glint in the Earl of Derby’s eye.
It is a fantastic place. We spent much happy family time on the Downs; walking, running or just driving by and took in the special atmosphere of the races at Epsom. We could not be happier living in Merseyside – now just a few minutes from another great sporting venue – Royal Birkdale Golf Club, the venue for this year’s Open Golf Championship – but today, even if its just for the three minuets or so it will take to run this great race, our hearts will be on the Downs. Our hearts will beat a little faster still, if Aidan O’Brien can bring it home for a sixth time and add another glorious chapter in Ireland’s love affair with this most British of occasions.