Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Derby Day

I've occasionally claimed that Derby Day at Epsom Downs is like England in miniature. But what do I actually mean by that?

Well England is about rushing outdoors as soon as there's any good weather, and Derby Day is 2 June this year, which is as close to a guarantee of sunshine as you get in this country (that is, very iffy), and almost entirely outdoors. Assuming you're one of the hoi polloi and haven't paid to sit in a stand etc.

England is definitely a land that enjoys a flutter, and this is one of the major flat races of the racing calender; if you put a bet on the National, you can put one on the Derby.

Is England a land that loves horses? Of course it is. We aren't the US or Mongolia where their national psyche is built on horsemanship, but Horse Racing is definitely the Sport of Kings.

Which leads us to England being the class system. Now Epsom Downs are public land, so you can get onto it for free. This, along with it being close to London, lead to it being extremely popular. People of all classes are here, and even mingle, although posh people get to go back to their stands and drink champagne, while the rest of us have to stand in line at the cider lorry. (England is also the tension between the city and the country, but I think that kind of goes without saying).

Napoleon pointed out that England is a nation of shopkeepers, and there's an enormous fair for people who like shopping. For people who don't, there's an enormous cider lorry. England isn't about hats, but the Racetrack is one of the last strongholds of traditional hat wearing. Take a look next time - everyone involved in a race, trainer, owner, steward etc. wears a hat. Good enough Jim?

So, there's my take on the Derby as England in miniature. Anyone want to go?
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