The Victoria Derby is the first major race of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, held on the Saturday immediately prior to the Melbourne Cup. A race over 2500 metres at Flemington Racecourse, the Victoria Derby is open to three-year-olds and run on a turf track. A prize of $1.5 million makes it one of the richer races in Australia.
First established in 1855, the Victoria Derby was originally 1 and a half miles long. As with so many other major Australian races, it was changed in order to better match up with the incoming metric system. This resulted in a change of distance to 2400 metres to begin with in 1972, but it was soon changed to its current distance of 2500 metres when it was discovered that horses might be endangered by the now much closer first turn.
Interestingly for a major race open to any three-year-old thoroughbreds, the first three Victoria Derby races were won by fillies. This trend did not continue very far into the 20th century, however, as the last filly to win the Victoria Derby did so in 1923. Itís not too surprising, as colts have often dominated the major three-year-old races in recent years.
Much like the following Melbourne Cup, the Victoria Derby Day is a fashion extravaganza, with competitions for the best-dressed men. This aspect of the event is an exceptional draw card, and probably helped the Victoria Derby Day to take the Flemington Racecourse attendance record from Melbourne Cup Day.
Those looking to attend the 2009 Victoria Derby should keep in mind the proximity to the Melbourne Cup as well as the Victoria Derbyís own popularity. Local attendance is strong, as is attendance from interstate, as many Group Status races are run on Victoria Derby Day. International attendees would do well to organize attendance as early as allowable, and to confirm bookings occasionally.