Tomorrow will see the running of the former racing calendar highlights, The Great Metropolitan and City & Suburban Handicaps at Epsom.

Once highlights of the racing calendar as staging posts to the classics and seasons feature races these two Epsom Spring Meeting handicaps no longer attract the quality of horse that they once did. Now they appear to be not much more than valuable handicaps in which no trainer would ever dream of running a Camelot, Mars, Dawn ApproachToronado or horse with classic potential. But back in the 19th century Derby and Guineas winners swelled the ranks of these contests.

The Great Metropolitan Handicap was unique in the racing calendar as it started by the Epsom finishing post and turned off the main course up into the Epsom Downs winding over a two mile two furlong course which was special to the race. However, in 1985 due to safety concerns the raced was reduced to a mile and a half and was from then on run on the Epsom course proper  with its special character being forever lost. The race holds another special place in racing history as being the first race back in 1947 where the placings were decided by a photo-finish.

The City & Suburban was a mainstay trial for the Derby and other classics (now in some respects this has been replaced by the Derby Trial which is on the meeting card). In I854 the super tough filly Virago won both the City & Suburban and Great Metropolitan on her way to winning the 1000 Guineas. Sefton in 1878 went from the City & Suburban on to victory in the Derby that year. With the great Bend Or doing the reverse by winning the 1880 Derby and coming back to Epsom to win the 1881 contest. The brilliant Fred Archer won the City & Suburban Handicap five times accompanying on one occasion the American horse Parole for his famous Great Metropolitan and City & Suburban double in 1879.

As the crowds gather tomorrow on the Epsom Downs tomorrow many may not realise the former glory of the (2.50) and (3.55).

Crockford’s selections for the Epsom Spring Meeting:




(Featured image – Sefton and Henry Constable  1878 Derby Winner – Wikimedia Commons)