Flat Racing: The Racehorse

December 16, 2019


Nearly all of today’s racehorses can be traced back to one of three ‘foundation’ stallions – The Darley Arabian, The Godolphin Arabian and The Byerley Turk. They were Arabian horses, imported into England between the late 17th and early 18th century by men who wanted to breed better racehorses. When they bred with Britain’s native, heavier horses, they produced offspring who were much faster with great stamina – they were the very first ‘thoroughbred’ racehorses, who are considered the most common racehorse breed. They are considered ‘hot-blooded’ horses, known for their agility, spirit and speed.

Taking part in a flat race such as the Derby at Epsom Racecourse allows for a longer career for the racehorse. They are entered into the race at just two years old; whilst some of them retire by the age of four, many go on for much longer, until they are ten or older. Some of the most prestigious races are confined to three year olds, but generally flat racehorses tend to be at their peak aged four or five. 

In flat racing, the weight of the horse is a huge factor due to the outcome of the race being determined by a horse’s agility. On average, a flat race thoroughbred racehorse weighs about 550kg and the horse can lose 5-15kg of bloody fluid during a race also. 

In regards to entering the Investec Derby, the age and weight of the horse is just the beginning. The entry fees and proving that they are good enough to compete must follow. With a flat racehorse being so young, there is a very small window to enter and compete.

Epsom 2019

This is just one of the many contributing factors as to why The Derby is such a prestigious race to win. Other factors include the fact that the Queen attends every year, however is yet to have an Epsom winner. Its £1.5million prize value makes it the richest race in Britain - but this is not an easy prize to win. The Epsom course is famously testing; its uphill start, tough turn at Tattenham Corner and the gruelling uphill climb to the finish are all points that prove why it is the highlight of the racing year.


Since The Derby began back in 1780, there have been a number of great winners. Winners are forged from a number of circumstances, from training methods to nutrition and diet. A win definitely requires a team effort from jockey, trainer, owner, and of course, the racehorse. Below are a select few that were perhaps some of the greatest.

SIR PERCY - 2006

This was perhaps one of the Derby’s most dramatic finishes. Sir Percy, ridden by Martin Dwyer was given the gold medal in a four-way photo-finish with Dylan Thomson, Dragon Dancer and Hala Bek. He was only 11th when he turned into the straight but Dwyer found a gap up the rail to bring home both the £740,000 prize money and the Lester Award for Flat ride of the year.


Authorized was a pre-race favourite after winning The Dante Stakes, a Group 2 race, with odds of 5/4. It was champion jockey Frankie Dettori’s first of two Epsom wins, after drawing a blank 14 times previously. It was arguably the pinnacle of Dettori’s career - he had now won all five Classics. Read more on Detorri’s greatest wins here.


Ridden by Mick Kinane, he became the first horse since 1989 to complete the 2,000 Guineas/Derby double, although he started as second favourite to The Derby at Epsom due to doubts over stamina. He completed a stunning run of six straight Group 1 wins, with Group 1 being the highest level of horse racing. His legendary career was aided by Kinane’s beautifully judged ride in The Derby, ensuring a stunning victory was had. 


Van Dyck was the most recent Epsom Derby winner, taking the 2019 crown despite being second-favourite. It was Seamie Heffernan’s first Derby win at the age of 46, however win number seven for trainer Aidan O’Brien. Van Dyck became victorious after a break through on the final straight, separating the first five by less than a length. It was the seventh fastest time for the Derby at Epsom at 2:33.38.

Epsom winners

*UPDATE (as of 18 June 2020) - 2021 Contenders*

Whilst we are deeply saddened by the postponement of the 2020 edition of the Investec Derby Festival, the revised flat racing season is well underway for 4th July. Here are some of the leading contenders:

Russian Emperor: quickly making his way up the table for Aidan O’Brien’s Derby team after his performances at Royal Ascot and his impressive win in the Hampton Court Stakes. With both runs being impressive, he won’t be lacking in fitness.

Kameko: described by his trainer as ‘the best they’ve had at Kingsclere for many years’. Andrew, son of legend Ian Balding, will have his best chance yet of emulating his father’s win back in 1971, sending Mill Reef to victory.

Mogul: another strong contender for the Derby and is also a brother to last year’s runner-up and subsequent Juddmonte International Stakes winner Japan. A leading hope for Aidan O’Brien, ad with O’Brien’s exceptional track record of 5 Investec winnings out of the last 10, Mogul is one to keep an eye on.

Do you like what you've read here? Sign up to our newsletter and be the first to hear about more sports news and blog posts, competitions and special offers from Keith Prowse hospitality.

Sign up to our e-news 

Posted In:

Connect with us


Receive our newsletter


Email to a friend