The first British Classic to be screened on terrestrial television was the Derby at Epsom. Indeed, the 1931 renewal of the ‘Blue Riband’ event, staged on Wednesday, June 3, was the subject of the first television outside broadcast or, in other words, the first television programme broadcast live, on location, anywhere in the world. The Baird Television Company, under the auspices of John Logie Baird, the Scottish engineer who became known as ‘The Father of Television’, provided the pictures, which were transmitted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) via the medium-wave radio transmitter at Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire. BBC Radio had first broadcast the Derby, along with the Grand National, in 1927, but the BBC Television Service was not officially launched until November, 1936.
In any event, the ‘King’s Birthday Derby’, run on the sixty-sixth birthday of King George V, was won by the 7/2 favourite, Cameronian, owned by J. Arthur Dewar, trained by Fred Darling and ridden by Freddie Fox. Television viewers were treated to a thrilling finish, with the 2,000 Guineas winner edging out well-fancied rivals Orpern and Sandwich by three-quarters of a length and the same. The following year, still some years before the advent of public television broadcasts, the Derby was shown, live, on closed-circuit television at the now demolished Metropole Kinema, in Victoria Street, central London.
The record for the widest winning margin in the history of the Derby is still held by Shergar, who cantered home ten lengths ahead of his nearest rival, Glint Of Gold, in 1981. Interestingly, though, while Shergar was visually highly impressive, his winning time of 2 minutes 44.21 seconds was the slowest since Airborne covered the mile-and-a-half Derby Course in 2 minutes 44.6 seconds, on soft going, in 1946.
Shergar was, of course, trained by Michael Stoute; as Sir Michael Stoute, following his knighthood for services to tourism in his native Barbados in 1998, he also saddled the 2010 Derby winner, Workforce, who recorded the fastest winning time in the history of the Epsom Classic. Despite being one of the least experienced horses in the field, the twice-raced son of King’s Best tackled the long-time leader At First Sight with just over a furlong to run and soon went clear, staying on well in the closing stages to win by seven lengths. On the prevailing good to firm going, his winning time of 2 minutes 31.33 seconds eclipsed the previous course record of 2 minutes 32.31 seconds, set by Cartier Champion Three-year-old Colt, Lammtarra, in 1995.
The five English Classic races are, from oldest to youngest, the St. Leger, Oaks, Derby, 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas. All five races have been in existence for over two centuries and each of them has thrown up its fair share of ‘shock’ winners, but none more so than Theodore who, in 1822, won the St. Leger at an eye-watering 200/1.
Since the turn of the twenty-first century, the St. Leger has also thrown up Encke at 25/1 in 2012 and Harbour Law at 22/1 in 2016. The fillies’ Classics, the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks, have also been won by two rank outsiders apiece, Homecoming Queen at 25/1 in 2012 and Billesdon Brook at 66/1 in 2018, in the case of the former, and Look Here at 33/1 in 2008 and Qualify at 50/1 in 2015, in the case of the latter. In recent years, though, the 2,000 Guineas has been the best English Classic for outsiders, producing Cockney Rebel at 25/1 in 2007, Mafki at 33/1 in 2010 and Night Of Thunder at 40/1 in 2014.
In the long, illustrious history of the Derby, which was inaugurated in 1780, three horses – Jeddah (1898), Signorinetta (1908) and Aboyeur (1913) – have won at odds of 100/1. However, the horse that came closest to becoming the longest-priced winner in the history of British racing, never mind the Derby, was Terimon in 1989. Trained by Clive Brittain and ridden by Michael Roberts, the grey son of Bustino lined up at Epsom with just a lowly maiden race win to his name and was, justifiably, sent off at 500/1 rank outsider of the twelve runners, behind 5/4 favourite Nashwan.
While ultimately no match for Nashwan, who pulled clear in the closing stages to win, easily, by 5 lengths, Terimon nevertheless belied his eye-watering starting price; he made steady late headway to deprive 3/1 second favourite Cacoethes of second place close home amd thus become the longest-priced placed horse in the history of the Epsom Classic. A colourful character, with a reputation for ’tilting at windmills’, Brittain had apparently told owner Lady Beaverbrook beforehand that Terimon would be placed.