THE MANX “DERBY.” The original Derby was Manx. Oh yes, it was.
(From Mona Miscellany – the Manx Society)
“The hardy race of Manx small horses has been mentioned by various writers on the Isle of Man from an early date. This breed is still to be met with in some of the upland farms, and are renowned for their fleetness, as well as being sure footed, and capable of enduring any amount of hard work.* Their mettle was often tried in the race from the church on a bridal morning, in the contest who should arrive first at the bridegroom’s abode, and have the honour of breaking the bridecake over the head of the bride as she entered the house. (Sounds fun!)
James, the 7th Earl of Derby, “The Great Earl,” succeeded to the royalty of Man in 1627, instituted races on the island on a piece of land extending rather more than a mile across the peninsula of Langness, and a record in the Rolls’ Office states that he gave a cup to be run for at these races, thus establishing the “Manx Derby,” the precursor of that now celebrated race “The Derby,” or the ” Blue Ribbon” of the turf. These races were continued by the 8th Earl by command as follows:
It is my good will and pleasure yt ye 2 prizes formerly granted (by me) for hors runing and shouting, shall continue as they did, to be run, or shot for, and so to continue dureing my good will and pleasure.—Given under my hand att Lathom ye 12 of July 1669.
DERBY (8th Earl).
To my governor’s deputy governor, & ye rest of my officers in my Isle of Man.
The first English “Derby” was run for in 1780, and won by Diomede, belonging to Sir Charles Bunbury, “whose ardour for the turf was conspicuous to his last hour.” By this it will be seen that the “Manx Derby” was the senior of its now more renowned namesake, by about a century and a half. The Kentucky version followed another hundred or so years later.”
Check out the link, it’s fascinating. The winner in 1687 was called “Loggerhead”.
* There are no indigenous horses any more. This from Wikipedia:
Manx horses also went extinct c. 1820-1830. Of them Thomas Quayle said,
“THE island had formerly its peculiar breed also of ponies, fine boned, sure footed ; blacks, greys, and bays: from neglect this breed also has become nearly extinct. Still less care than with regard to horned cattle and sheep, has been taken to replace the indigenous breed by the introduction of good draft-horses. In the uplands a small breed is yet to be found, kept at slender expense, rarely housed in winter. When wanted, they are fetched home in the morning, and after a feed of sheaf-oats or hay, worked all day, and in the evening, after another feed, dismissed again to the pasture. The animal thus treated must be unequal to the spring-ploughing ; but from the cessation of work in summer, gradually recovers.“