Betfred “Immensely Proud” To Be Announced As New Sponsor Of The Oaks And The Derby

In a three-year deal, Betfred will also support two other races across the two days of The Derby meeting
12:01, 11 Apr 2023

Betfred Boss Fred Done has described himself as “immensely proud” to be announced as the new sponsor of The Oaks and The Derby at Epsom Downs. 

In a three-year deal, Betfred will also support two other races across the two days of The Derby meeting, which in 2023 takes place on Friday 2nd June and Saturday 3rd June.

Founded by Fred Done with a single betting shop in Salford in 1967 - between the victories of two great Derby winners in Royal Palace and Sir Ivor - Betfred has grown to become the largest independent bookmaker on the high street in the UK with 1,400 shops. It remains family owned, with Fred Done as Chairman of the Betfred Group. As well as having a significant online and mobile presence, it has expanded globally into South Africa and currently operates in 10 states in the USA.

A long standing supporter of British racing for more than 50 years, Betfred was the sport’s biggest sponsor between 2011 and 2018, when their sponsorships included the Cheltenham Gold Cup (2012 – 2015), the Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock Park, Newmarket’s “Autumn Double” – the Cambridgeshire and Cesarewitch and York’s Ebor Handicap among their racing portfolio of over 600 races. Betfred is also currently the official betting partner of Ascot racecourse and Royal Ascot.

Betfred maintains a varied sporting sponsorship portfolio including official Partner of Manchester United and Matchroom Boxing, title sponsors of Rugby League’s Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Super Leagues, plus the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Challenge Cups, golf’s Betfred British Masters hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at The Belfry, the World Matchplay Darts and, until recently, the long-time sponsor of the World Snooker Championship.

Betfred Boss Fred Done said: “I am immensely proud to sponsor The Derby and The Oaks. For me, The Derby remains the greatest Flat race in the world. 

“When you look at some of the horses and characters that have won this great race, Sea-Bird, Mill Reef, Nijinsky, Sir Gordon Richards, Lester Piggott, and Frankie Dettori, it has an amazing history and I am delighted to become a part of it for at least the next three years.”


Nevin Truesdale, Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, said: “We’re delighted that Betfred have agreed to be the sponsor of The Derby and The Oaks.

“Betfred’s support of British racing over many years has been superb and we’re proud to be working with Fred Done and his team on its next chapter, to promote these two iconic races on the first weekend in June.” 

Amy Starkey, Managing Director for Jockey Club Racecourses, added: “This is an exceptional deal for British horseracing. This partnership represents a substantial investment in the world’s most famous Flat race and we are very grateful to Betfred for their generous support.

“As a bookmaker with a long and established history in horseracing and numerous other sports, I’ve worked with Fred and the team at Betfred for more than 20 years and know how deeply committed they are to British racing. 

“Betting has been integral to The Derby since its inception in 1780, when even the name of the race was decided on a coin toss. The odds of the runners and especially the winners have always been a key part of the history and development of the world’s greatest Flat race.

“Our teams have a shared passion for the rich heritage and history of The Derby and The Oaks and with 1,400 shops across the UK I’m excited that Betfred will be able to help us promote these prestigious races on high streets up and down the country.”

Betfred’s sponsorship of the Epsom Downs Classics and two other races – which are yet to be determined over the two days of The Derby in June – is the first in a number of partnership announcements for the fixture due in the coming weeks. 

About The Betfred Derby 

In 1776, “Gentleman’ Johnny Burgoyne, a soldier, playwright and politician who married into the Derby family and had passed on the lease of his Surrey mansion, the Oaks, to the 12th Earl of Derby, Edward Smith-Stanley, urged his friend to introduce a race for three-year-old fillies over a mile and a half to emulate old comrade in arms Anthony St Leger, founder of the St Leger at Doncaster.

Three years later, on May 14th 1779, the Downs above the spa town of Epsom hosted the initial Oaks and, appropriately, Lord Derby’s Bridget was victorious. At a celebratory party that evening, Burgoyne proposed, because the Oaks had been such a great success, a similar race should be founded for both colts and fillies.


Sir Charles Bunbury, a distinguished figure in the world of horseracing, was behind the concept of racing over a mile or a mile and a half. Legend has it that Bunbury and Derby discussed the possibility and all that was left to do was name the race. Apparently, it was the toss of a coin in the latter’s favour that secured the race title, which started a worldwide franchise and lives on as strongly as ever.

On May 4th 1780, the inaugural Derby Stakes was run for £1,065 15s. Despite losing the flip of the coin, Bunbury gained some compensation when Diomed carried his pink and white silks to success over a mile.

The distance was changed to the present mile and a half in 1784. Lord Derby had to wait until 1787 before he saw his colours triumph in the Classic, when the previously unraced Sir Peter Teazle scored under Sam Arnull. Sir Peter Teazle was retired to stud in October 1789 and developed into a distinguished sire. 

By the middle of the 19th Century The Derby had established itself as the most important race of the year in Britain, with many thousands flocking to Epsom Downs where there was also a huge fair. 

The Classic used to be run on the first Wednesday in June, but since 1995 has taken place on the first Saturday of that month. The British Parliament did not sit on Derby Day for many years, such was the prestige of the premier Classic. 

Copies of the race were spawned around the world and there are well over 400 different Derbys, some very illustrious like the Kentucky Derby and others less so.

After the American Civil War, the Kentucky thoroughbred industry experienced hard times and Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark represented a group interested in reviving racing in the US state. He travelled to England and France in 1872 to study European horseracing. While in England, Colonel Clark saw the famous Derby at Epsom Downs and, when he returned to Louisville, he made plans to create a race like the one he had witnessed.

The first Kentucky Derby was run at Churchill Downs in 1875 and takes place on dirt rather than turf and over a mile and a quarter rather than a mile and a half. The name Derby was used in America and many other countries to denote the best race for three-year-olds.

Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey has been the stage for the premier British Classic, except during both World Wars (1915-1918, 1940-1945) when the course was used to house prisoners of war. A substitute race, the New Derby, was staged at Newmarket instead. 

The Betfred Derby, a supreme challenge for three year olds over the unique undulating Epsom Downs track, remains the most prestigious Flat race in the world. It is staged for the 244th time in 2023 when it will be sponsored by Betfred for the first time with a prize fund of at least £1.5 million, making it the UK’s most valuable race. 

The Derby boasts an illustrious roll of honour, which includes Bay Middleton, Ormonde, Isinglass, Hyperion and Bahram, while the last 60 years alone have seen such luminaries prevail as Sea-Bird, Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Shergar, Nashwan, Generous, Lammtarra, Galileo, High Chaparral, New Approach, Sea The Stars and Golden Horn.

The 2022 Derby honoured the race’s greatest jockey Lester Piggott, who was victorious a record nine times between 1954 and 1983. It was won by the Richard Kingscote-ridden Desert Crown, who handed trainer Sir Michael Stoute a sixth victory in the premier Classic.  

The late Queen Elizabeth II was present at The Derby every year bar two between 1946 and 2019. Alongside Royal Ascot, it is the only raceday in Britain that forms part of the Court’s official calendar.

The Betfred Derby is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

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