Carnival atmosphere on Hill is highlight of Epsom Derby Day

(CNN) – It’s a pinnacle of the sporting and social calendar, but for many the “Hill” is the highlight of the Epsom Derby.

Since it was first held in 1780, the showpiece of the Flat racing season has attracted huge crowds for a day out on the Downs south of London.

But Britain’s richest race is not just the preserve of the moneyed elite, and Epsom’s famous Hill draws punters in their thousands to soak up the carnival atmosphere on Derby Day.

With fairground rides, picnic areas, a huge market and live music, the Hill provides fun for all the family and offers new generations a taste of racing life.

It’s what makes the Derby “completely unique,” according to Phil White, regional director of Jockey Club racecourses.

“The Hill is famous for the open-top buses, for the fairground, we have a ‘horseplay’ enclosure which is specifically designed for families and young children to enjoy, and there are activities out there which are educational about horse racing and about the Derby…generally just fun all round,” White told CNN’s Winning Post.

“It’s a great social event the Derby.

“If we can get people understanding some of the intricacies of the race and of horse racing that has to be good for the long term future of the event and of the sport.”

For the horses, the Derby requires a combination of speed, stamina and determination.

“It is the ultimate test of the three-year-old thoroughbred,” says White.

“That’s due to the undulations of the ground, and the course itself is unbelievably challenging.

“There is an increase rise [on the track] the size of Nelson’s Column, then you come around Tattenham Corner and there is a reverse camber down the final furlong — it is uphill as well.

“Factor in the Hill, and the carnival atmosphere and the tens of thousands of people out there, it really is a challenge for three-year-old horses to deliver.

“The winner is always the classiest horse in the Derby.”