Chiles long-standing relationship with all things British led to the founding of the Valparaíso Sporting Club in 1882 to found and promote horse racing. The first Derby Day, based on the British race, was held on October 22, 1885. Now it is held annually on the first Sunday in February and is Chiles second greatest national celebration. The first, of course, is the Fiestas Patrias or Independence Day holidays.
On Derby Day, the events begin at 11 am, and continue until the Clásico race for three year old thoroughbreds running a 2400 meter course. However, months before the race, the festivities gear up with the selection of an artist for the annual poster in September of the year before in an event known as Concurso Nacional de Afiches.
In January, two events hold everyones attention. The first is the crowning of the Chilean woman who by her beauty and grace merits the crown of Reina de El Derby. Next is the drawing for position during the races, the Partidas de El Derby.
In the days preceding the race, the Lanzamiento Oficial en el Centro de Eventos del Valparaíso Sporting Club brings together owners, trainers, jockeys and others connected with the race in a premiere event. Saturday before the race, the traditional antique car parade, the Paseo de Autos Antiguos, wends through the streets of Viña del Mar with the Queen of the Derby highlighting the parade.
Finally, on Derby Day, 80,000 spectators gather at the race track for full day of racing, picnics, and social gathering of Chiles high society. This is the only race in Chile which maintains the original set of rules and regulations, dating back to the origins of the English Derby in 1780.
This isnt the only racing event in Chile, however. Throughout the year, there are races here at the Sproting Club and at other race courses such as the Club Hípico of Santiago and the Club Hípico of Concepción. Additionally, the National Hunt, by the name of Santiago Hunt Chile y Grupo Escala, is a popular event, also formed along the lines of the English hunt.
Enjoy Derby Day at the Valparaíso Sporting Club, completed in 1908, with its race tracks, training tracks, corrals, stables, as well as the soccer, rugby, polo, cricket, field hockey fields, and areas for other sports.
For more information about this internaational equestrian tradition, please read Horse Racing.