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What is the meaning and etymology of derby, as in horse racing?

The annual race for three-year-old horses - Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and the Derby at Epsom Downs in England - is also loosely applied to any horse race as well as to some other competitions (demolition derby, soap box derby, etc.). Derby in the horse-racing context took its name from Edward Stanley, the 12th Earl of Derby, who instituted the Derby at Epsom Downs in 1780. Derby is a town and shire in England and the earldom of that shire. That race is run on the Wednesday before or second Wednesday after Whitsunday. The Kentucky Derby is run the first Saturday in May.

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