Kiplingcotes Derby in Kiplingcotes, England • atlasobscura.com

For centuries, horses thundered on this four-mile course. These are not your typical racehorses, and this is not your typical race track. All horses, whether pure or not, are qualified to run in what is considered EnglandOldest horse race.

Said to have been performed for the first time in 1519, and written in registers dating from the early 17th century, the Kiplingcotes Derby welcomes horses and riders of all ages and origins. The oldest registered runner was 74 years old.

The derby takes place on the third Thursday of March. Participants arrive the same day, pay the registration fee and are then ready to leave. There is only one bookmaker, who does not get notice from the riders and must fix his chances on the day of the race.

You will see elegant and muscular sports horses galloping alongside draft horses and other stocky breeds. Some runners wear colorful silks, while others wear their everyday clothes. Locals line the course, encouraging competitors as they whistle.

The derby is a flat flat race and takes place on rough tracks and, in some places, steep and muddy farm tracks. The finish is posted on the grass edge of a public road, which forms the final stretch.

Strangely, it's more lucrative to finish second than win. The winner earns £ 50 (and keeps the trophy until the next race), and the second ranked runner receives the rest of the registration fee. Due to the number of horses participating in the race, this final prize is often much more than the reward of first place. However, many are eager to win. It is said that retired racehorses are sometimes listed under false names.

The tradition is that if the race is canceled a year, it will never be contested. In the few recorded cases where the race was canceled during its long history, steps are taken to maintain the tradition. In 2018, the course being considered too dangerous because of the saturation in water, two horses were slowly mounted, and sometimes led by hand, on the track so that future races could still take place.

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