Mumbai: "What's in a name?" Shakespeare had asked famously. Those who agree with the Bard of Avon quickly point out that a rose by any other name would still smell the same. Maybe. But the Derby with any other name would not sound right, would it?
Just imagine that this Sunday, you are planning to go to the Mahalaxmi Racecourse to attend the biggest racing event of 2014, and instead of the Indian Derby, it's called the Indian Bunsbury!
But that's precisely what it would have been called if in 18th century England, Edward Smith Stanley, the 12th Earl of Derby, had given a wrong call on a coin that was tossed up in the air.
The story dates back to 1779 when two friends — Lord Derby and his friend Sir Charles Bunbury decided to frame a race for three-year-old colts and fillies over a straight mile at the Epsom Racetrack (the distance of the race was increased to its present trip of a mile-and-a-half after the Tattenham Corner was introduced in 1784).
Once the terms and the prize money were chalked up, it became clear this would turn out to be the most coveted race in terms of the prestige attached to it, and both the friends wanted the race named after himself.
Finally, they decided to settle the matter with a coin toss which Lord Derby won. That's why this Sunday at the Mahalaxmi racetrack you will be attending the McDowell Signature Indian Derby and not the Indian Bunsbury.
The date on which the Derby is held is extremely sacrosanct. England’s Epsom Derby is run on the first Saturday in June every year, USA’s Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May, and the Indian Derby on the first Sunday of February. Some years ago, there was an attempt by the race club to shift the Indian Derby by a week to accommodate a foreign dance troupe that the sponsor wanted to fly in for the occasion. But the move evoked such angry reactions from the fraternity that the club had to finally bow down to public pressure and stick to the traditional date.
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