One of the highlights of the Epsom Derby
meeting, which takes place over two days in early June; the fillies’ Classic, the Investec Oaks spearheads the opening day of the top-class fixture.
The third of the season’s ‘Classics’ – and the second for fillies only – the race can be considered the middle leg of the Fillies’ Triple Crown, which also incorporates the 1000 Guineas and the St Leger. However, very few attempt the feat of winning all three contests.
The race is named after the Earl of Derby's estate ‘The Oaks’ which is situated around four miles to the east of Epsom Downs. The race came about during a dinner party discussion held at the retreat where e the Earl and his friends planned a sweepstake for three-year-old fillies over a distance of what is now the Oaks distance of one and a half miles.
The Oaks was first run in 1779, one year earlier than the colts’ Classic ‘the Derby’, and the inaugural running of the race was won by Bridget. The race subsequently became one of the Britain’s leading events for three-year olds, retaining the name ‘The Oaks’.
While the Epsom renewal is the jewel in the Oaks Crown, the concept of the race has been copied several times over, with equivalent Oaks races being held in several European and worldwide countries, giving rise to the likes of the Irish Oaks, Preis der Diana (German Oaks), Prix de Diane (French Oaks) and even the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks).
There are also Oaks races at a regional level, with the likes of the Lancashire Oaks at Haydock, the Yorkshire Oaks at York, and the Cheshire Oaks at Chester.