Epsom Downs Racecourse

Address:
The Grandstand, Epsom Downs, Surrey, KT18 5LQ - Map & Directions
Telephone:
01372 726311
Epsom Downs
Epsom Downs (Ian Capper / geograph.org.uk)

The first race at Epsom Downs was recorded in 1661 and the predominantly flat course was mentioned in the diary of Samuel Pepys. Similarly, Charles II was said to be a regular attender of races. Epsom houses the third largest racehorse training facility in the country and the course featured heavily in the 1952 film ‘Derby Day’. Epsom Downs is situated on the largest remaining public space south of London, and as it is a public area people can watch the Derby for free – a race that used to be the most attended sporting event of the year.

With an overall course capacity of 120,000, Epsom also opened a new Duchess’s stand in 2009, which holds 11,000 people and cost a total of £23.5 million to build. Just a few minutes down the road from Epsom town centre, Epsom Downs is extremely easy to get to by car, accessible by coming off Junction 9 of the M25.

During the racing season AA signs direct racegoers from the motorway to the course. If travelling by train, there are three stations all with very good access to the track. Epsom train station is just a ten-minute taxi or bus ride away, with a shuttle bus service available on Derby day. Epsom station is well served by services from London Waterloo and London Victoria. Alternatively, Tattenham Corner station is a half mile walk from the course, with Epsom Downs station slightly further away.

Ticket Prices

Grandstand ticket prices range from £16 to £28 for regular race days, whilst these prices are increased to between £45 and £99 for Derby day. Entry to the course enclosure on Derby day is priced between £18.75 and £37.50. As said, due to being a public space there are several free viewing areas, both inside and outside the course, for those on a budget but wanting to soak up some of the famous atmosphere.

The Course

Epsom Flat Racecourse Map

The grade 1 course at Epsom Downs is one of the best in the country as you would expect of a track that hosts two Classics. Shaped like a horseshoe and measuring 1m4f in circumference, Epsom hosts flat racing only.

The grandstand is positioned to the left of the open end of the left-handed horseshoe which is stiff and undulating in nature. Although the home straight at Epsom is 3½f in length, a chute coming off Tattenham Corner allows for 5f straight races to take place. There are two other chutes that allow for six and seven furlong contests with a slight left bend prior to the reasonably sharp left turn onto the home stretch. There is a minor elevation on the right hand side but the hint of bias is largely cancelled out by the slightly better ground usually being on this side of the course.

Horses at Epsom have to deal with the difficult undulations, with a rise of 105ft in the first 5f of the course alone. The second last turn goes into an incredibly steep downhill, with a 92ft decline spread out over 3½f. This makes the final part of the course exceptionally fast paced with the result being exceptionally exciting finishes in tightly contested events.

An absences of long distance races means that this is far from an uncommon sight either. As there’s no complete circuit at Epsom, the course cannot hold races greater than a mile and a half.

Five Furlongs at a Rapid Pace

The straight 5f course at Epsom is virtually downhill all the way, bar the final 100 yards, making it the fastest of its kind anywhere in the world. The high-standing of the course also allows it to attract some very talented sprinters, ensuring some rapid times are posted for minimum distance races.

In 2012, this was something officially recognised in the Guinness World Records as Stone of Folca won the Epsom Dash in an incredible time of 53.69s. Some still believe that the course record belongs to Indigenous though, who clocked 53.60s in June 1960 but this was prior to the introduction of electronic timing. Stone of Folca was a 50/1 outsider when storming to a record-breaking win. He started from stall number two, trailed by Desert Law and Catfish who began out in gates 16 and 15 respectively.

There aren’t a huge number of contests over the minimum distance. A lack of five furlong races means it’s hard to get a real sense if there’s any bias but from the little info we do have, a spot away from the middle appears to be preferable.

This didn’t always used to be the case as research published in 1983 found that for the preceding seven years, there were three times as many winners from the top four stalls than the bottom four stalls. Whether the drainage has trained or this was just a statistical anomaly is unclear but for now there isn’t much bias over the straight five furlong course.

In terms of races over six to eight furlongs, once again there is little in the way of bias. Whilst there is a left-handed turn to contend with, there have been a number of wins for horses with high draws, suggesting the vagaries of the going tend to equal things out.

An Ultimate Thoroughbred Test

When looking at shape, distance and undulations, Epsom has certain similarities with Brighton but there’s nothing else that really compares with the test the Surrey course offers. Its turns, hills and cambers mean that horses must work every muscle when competing here. A fine sense of balance is an absolutely essential trait too, as is plenty of raw speed in the shorter races as those setting the early pace often end up being difficult to catch on the downhill finish.

The stiffness of the test produces shocks here and there (see 50/1 Qualify in the 2014 Oaks) but, ultimately, Epsom is a course that continues to identify some of the best colts and fillies around. A long list of truly great names have claimed glory on the switchback course and this will continue to be the case.

Major Meetings at Epsom Downs

Epsom Downs on Derby Day
Epsom Downs on Derby Day (Malc McDonald / geograph.org.uk)

The biggest race every year at Epsom is without doubt the Epsom Derby. Scheduled to run each June, the Derby was first contested in 1780 and runs over a distance of 1m4f. Widely known as Britain’s richest race, the Derby is the most prestigious of the five ‘Classics’, and is the middle leg of the Triple Crown.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien has seen his horses win the previous three, becoming the first person to train three consecutive winners at the Derby (2012-2014). Two other famous races also run at Epsom every June are the Epsom Oaks and the Coronation Cup. The Oaks was established in 1779 and measures 1m4f, whilst the Coronation cup wasn’t run until 1902, and measures the same distance.

Dining and Hospitality

The Track at Epsom Downs
The Track at Epsom Downs (Marathon / geograph.org.uk)

Hospitality and private boxes at Epsom Downs are priced between £94.80 and £214.80, whilst the hospitality features and conference rooms are available to hire throughout the year on non-race days for business functions, private parties and weddings.

Map

Swap Start/End

Grudge Matches