- , KENTUCKY DERBYThe famous Derby (pronounced dar-be), an annual horse race at Epsom Down, England, takes place in Surrey, southwest of London. Although races had been held since the reign of James I, successor to Queen Elizabeth, it was Edward Stanley, the twelfth Earl of Derby (1752-1834), an avid amateur sportsman, who offered a prize in 1780 for an annual race of three-year-old colts, later including fillies. Restricting the race to threeyear- olds assured that a horse could win only once.The flip of a coin decided the name Derby, since Sir John Hawkewood was also instrumental in introducing the race. Derby won the flip, but Hawkewood's horse won the race, the first of the Derby races. The running of the Derby was most festive. The day was called "Derby Day," and fashionable house parties that accompanied the event grew more and more lavish throughout the years. People flocked to Epsom Downs, and the entire area was decorated as if for a country fair. To make the event pseudo-official, Parliament adjourned for the day. The name Derby became generic for a horse racing event, and other countries came to call their important race "The Derby." In the United States the most prominent day for the racing of the best horses is called the "Kentucky Derby," and in France, the "French Derby." The word has also become applied to other competitions, as in "soapbox derby."A dome-shaped hat is called a bowler in England; in America, a derby. It is said that a New York retail clerk, when selling this hat, told his customers that the hat was commonly worn in England and always at the Derby. Hence the name for this hard hat. Or was the hat named in honor of the earl? Or his horse race? Take your pick, as you would a horse at Epsom Downs.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.