May 1st 2009 12:35 am |
Have you ever wondered why three-year-old filly races are referred to as “Oaks”?
Well, so did Frank Wilson of White Plains, New York who submitted that question to legendary race writer Joe Hirsch for his Question and Answer column in the Daily Racing Form. For this one, Hirsch asked Humphrey Finney for help. At the time, Finney was the Chairman of the Board for the Fasig-Tipton Sales Company (their sales pavilion at Saratoga is named for Mr. Finney who died in 1984). A native of England who spent a lifetime in the horse business, Finney relayed the following story:
“As the story goes, the Derby race originated at a dinner party when Lord Derby, in the 1770s, won the toss of a coin with Lord Bunbury for the honor of having the race for three-year-olds named after him. Another dinner party was held shortly after, with Lord Derby and his friends present, and it was decided to hold a companion race for three-year-old fillies. It was agreed this race would honor Lord Derby’s estate, the Oaks, which was located near the Epsom Course, still the site of the English Derby and English Oaks. Both names, Derby and Oaks, continued through the years, and were brought to this country by the early English Settlers.”
Joe Hirsch A Treasury of Questions and Answers from the Morning Telegraph and Daily Racing Form (Trident Press, New York : 1969)