level English resource on British
life - SPORT
The oldest and perhaps the
most famous horse-race in the world.
Derby in 1821, by the French artist Géricault
Talk about sport in any language, and sooner or later you'll find
yourself using English words. The British were the first people to
write down standard rules for a lot of sports, even in sports
like tennis which was invented by the French, or golf
which was probably played in Holland, before
becoming a national sport in Scotland.
As the rules of lots of different sports
all over the world, so did the language of sport. In the world of
horse-racing, words like groom
and lad and steeplechase
spread to other countries; so too did the word "Derby". The word came
to mean an important race
usually between horses. One of the most famous horse races in Ireland
is called the Irish
, and one of the most famous American races is
called the Kentucky
and the word is used for other sports too, for important matches
between two rival teams. In England, the "Manchester Derby" is a
football match between Manchester United and Manchester City.
But where did this word come from? Why
Just like "Rugby", "Derby" (pronounced "Darby") is the name of a town
in the middle of England; it is also the name of England's most famous
horse race, The Derby. But the Derby is not run in the town of Derby,
of course! That would be too simple !
the Derby has the reputation of being the world's most famous classic
horse race. It is certainly the oldest and one of the biggest. Some
years, over 600 horses are entered for the race; however only about 25
of them will actually take part in the great race on Derby day at the
beginning of June.
at the Derby
The Derby has figured more than once in
British history. The most
dramatic event took place in 1913, when a woman called Emily Davison
ran out in front of the King's horse, and tried to grab
it. The horse and rider and Emily all fell to the ground in the
confusion, and Emily was killed. Emily was a "Suffragette", a militant
campaigning for women's votes. In those days, only men were allowed to
vote in elections in Britain, and Emily belonged to a group fighting
with determination for women's rights.
Emily did not die
completely in vain. Though the First World War delayed things by a few
years, some women got the vote in 1921, and complete voting equality
with men was achieved in 1928.
It is said that the Derby was born during a dinner
the year 1779, at the house of a nobleman, the Earl of Derby, near
Epsom, a quiet village about 20 miles to the west of London. Like most
aristocrats of the day, the earl loved horse-racing, and the open
hilltops near his house were an excellent place for his jockeys to test
their skills and speed against challengers. At the dinner party, the
earl's friends decided to organise a big race for three-year old
horses, and in respect for their host
they called it "the Derby".
Very soon, the Derby became the most
popular horse race
in England - even in Europe. People could easily drive out in their
carriages from London to watch the big race. In 1788, the Prince of
Wales came to watch the race for the first time, and by the year 1800
start of the 19th century the Derby had become an important date in the
annual social and sporting calendar.
It didn't just interest aristocrats, of course. Though most racehorses
at the time were owned by aristocratic families, horse-racing was a
very popular sport with ordinary people too, as it still is today. In
1847, the House of Commons decided that it should not work on Derby
Day. By doing so, it virtually made the day into a national holiday, as
other people followed the parliamentary example.
From then on, thousands of ordinary people from London would crowd onto
the trains on Derby Day, to enjoy a day at the races, a bit of
excitement, and a breath of fresh air.
The Derby was one of the first sporting events to be shown on
television. In 1932, long before public TV broadcasts
began, the race was shown on closed circuit television to a select
audience in the Metropole Cinema, in London. Then, in 1946, it was one
of the first sports events to be broadcast on BBC television.
The Derby in modern times
Today, the Derby is watched on TV by millions of people all over
Britain, and in other countries too, thanks to satellite communications.
While some people just watch it for the thrill of the race, a lot more
watch it for the money. Betting (putting money) on horses is a
very popular activity in Britain, and the Derby is the second biggest
race of the year, in terms of money. It's impossible to know
much money is bet on the Derby, but the figure is enormous. Betting
starts months before the race actually takes place. Some people want to
get in big bets on their personal favourites, before the odds
are too low.
Some professional gamblers
bet sums of money greater than £10,000!
For most people though, bets are more likely to be in the range of a
pound or two. On Derby Day last year, it was estimated that a total of
over £35 million was gambled on this single
spread: extend - groom
person who looks after a horse - steeplechase
race with jumps - race
competition of speed - - skills
abilities - host
person who invites other people - grab
seize - to broadcast
to transmit - the odds
the factor by which a bet is multiplied if the horse wins. gambler
: a person
who plays with money - single
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The Derby - Student worksheet
the missing prepositions in the following extracts from the article
Here are the words
you will need to use:
to in in in in in in
in of of of of
of of of of by for
for on on
The British were the first people (________) write down standard
rules (________) a lot (________) sports, even (________)
tennis which was invented (________) the French, or golf which, before
becoming a national sport (________) Scotland was apparently played
Some years, over 600 horses are entered
(________) the race; however only about 25 (________) them
will actually take part (________) the great race (________) Derby day
(________) the beginning (________) June.
It is said that
the Derby was born (________) a dinner party (________) the year 1779,
(________) the house (________) the Earl (________) Derby, near Epsom,
a quiet village about 20 miles (________) the west (________) London.
these questions in your own words
- Why is the Derby called "the Derby" ?
- What is the Derby?
- Where does the Derby take place?
- Why did Emily Davison try to stop the king's horse?
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Originally published in Freeway,
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