Friday, February 04, 2011

Derby build up - V

Thank you, Lord Derby!

“What’s in a name?,” famously asked Shakespeare. Those who agree with the bard of Avon quickly point out that a rose by any other name would still smell the same.

Rose? Maybe.

But the Derby with any other name would not sound right, would it?

Just imagine that this Sunday you are planning to go to the Mahalaxmi racecourse to attend the greatest racing event of 2011, and it's not called the Indian Derby, but the Indian Bunbury instead--how would you feel?

But mind you, that’s precisely what it would have been called if Lord Derby (the 12th Earl) of England had given a wrong call on a coin that was tossed up in the air to decide the name for this race.

The story dates back to more than two centuries and a quarter. In the second half of the 18th century England, two friends—Lord Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury—took very active interest in horse racing. In 1779, they decided to frame a race for three year old colts and fillies over a straight mile at the Epsom racetrack (the distance of the race was increased to its present trip of a mile and a half after the famous Tattenham Corner was introduced in 1784).

Once the terms and the prize money were chalked up, it became clear this would turn out to be the most coveted race in terms of the prestige attached to it, and each of the two friends desired the race to be named after himself. Finally, they decided to settle the matter with a toss of the coin. Lord Derby won the toss, and that’s the reason why, this Sunday at the Mahalaxmi racetrack, you will be attending the Derby, and not the Bunbury.

So if, like every race lover, the word ‘Derby’ evokes the imagery of splendor, grandeur and a unique mix of fashion, glamour and high life, and brings to your mind an indescribable emotion of larger-than-life experience of an exciting racing event, you know who to thank for that imagery—thank Lord Derby for winning that toss more than two centuries ago!

And yes, no need to feel sorry for Lord Bunbury for losing the toss. Because his name is already immortalized in the Derby scroll of honour as he won the inaugural running of the Derby on May 4, 1780 with a horse named Diomed.

Every nation has one

Derby! The word has become generic today, and symbolizes the best race of every nation in the world. In England it’s Epsom Derby; in the U.S. it’s called the Kentucky Derby; in Japan it’s Japan Derby; and in India it’s the McDowell Indian Derby. The race is run only once every year and the winner is crowned as the champion horse of his or her age in the country.

Tradition: heart & soul

The date on which the Derby is held is also treated as extremely sacrosanct. The Epsom Derby is run on the first Wednesday in June every year, the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May, and the Indian Derby (now called Signature Derby) on the first Sunday of February each year.

Some years ago, there was an attempt by the RWITC authorities to shift the Derby by a week to accomodate a foreign dance group that the sponsor wanted to fly in for the occasion. But the move met with such angry reactions from the racing world that the club had to finally bow down to public pressure and stick to the traditional date.

(c) MiD DAY


  1. The Epsom derby is now held on the first saturday of june every year and not wednsday anymore.

  2. Wow I have read your article and by the way I found you website
    on Google and I think after I read several post on you
    website especially this one I have my own opinion about
    what should I comment on the next hang out with my boy
    friend, maybe today I will tell my friendsabout this one and
    get debate.


Wish to post as "Anonymous"? Not a problem.
But a better way is to use the Name/URL option and take up some net name of your choice. That way your privacy is protected and other readers can associate your thoughts with your web personality. Think about it.
A sincere appeal by Prakash Gosavi, blog owner