There's no race quite like the Investec Epsom Derby. Nestled in the rolling Surrey countryside, the world's greatest flat race has staged some of sport's most memorable moments over 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 10 yards.
Folklore has it that the race was born by the spin of a coin in 1779 to decide whether it should be called the Derby Stakes – after Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby – or the Bunbury Stakes – after Sir Charles Bunbury.
Diomed was crowned the inaugural winner back in 1780 and since then some of the greatest thoroughbreds, including Sea-Bird II, Nijinsky and Galileo, have torn past Tattenham Corner toward a rapturous grandstand and past the post to victory.
The excitement of the Derby makes it a fixture for racing fanatics and royalty alike and its regal associations will be confirmed on Saturday (4 June) when the Queen presents the Derby winner's prize for the first time in her reign.
One man who has experienced the pride and euphoria of winning the Derby is Mickael Barzalona, who rode to victory on Pour Moi back in 2011. Speaking at Epsom Down Racecourse ahead of the festival he remembered his victory as a special moment.
"To be honest it was quite like a dream," the jockey of third-favourite Cloth Of Stars said. "To be part of the Derby and to win and to meet the Queen, it was a dream. She [the Queen] said 'Well done, you beat my horse'."
The Derby – one of the five flat race classics – is Britain's richest race, with a prize purse of £1,325,000 – £750,000 of which goes to the winner. With more than 160,000 spectators passing through its gates last year, the Epsom Derby festival remains as popular as ever and racing pundit John McCririck believes that is down to its deep-rooted tradition.
"The Derby is the pinnacle of flat racing, if you can go and win the Derby it is the ultimate for the jockey, owner and trainer. It's the race everybody wants to win," he told IBTimes UK.
"For a three-year-old colt to come to Epsom with all the history, it was first run in 1780, it is also a supreme test for a thoroughbred not only for its stamina and its speed but the undulations, the adaptability. It's the ultimate test. If they built a race course for a classic they would never build one like Epsom, but that is what has tested [horses] down the centuries.
"It's so well known, everyone has heard of the Derby. There are thousands of derbies around the world, from the snail derby and the donkey derby to the Kentucky Derby. but the Epsom Derby is the one.
"Of course, when they tossed up just before the first derby between Lord Derby [Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby] and [Sir Charles] Bunbury – so we could be running for the Bunbury! So fortunately Bunbury won it. And of course you have clashes in soccer called a derby game between neighbours so derby is in the lexicon around the world.
"Cloth of Stars, the French colt, made a terrific, really strong 10-furlong workout, by far the most impressive. Andre Fabre brought Pour Moi over here five years ago in 2011 and he had his gallop here and was so good then that many people picked him for the Derby and I think Cloth of Stars has impressed everyone with a terrific trial.
"One of the Derby favourites Wings of Desire was sluggish and not impressive, so if we've learnt anything today it is that Cloth of Stars will be the one to beat in the Investec Derby." Racing pundit John McCririck