With the foundation of the "Higher Board of Horse Racing and Breeding Commissioners" in 1926, horse racing activities in Turkey came under the governance of a single authority. Atıf Esenbel, the Secretary-General of the Board, decided for organization of a race with the highest prize in the name of the Great Leader Atatürk after consulting with a number of experts on the subject, including İsmet İnönü in particular. One year later, this decision was implemented by adding “Gazi Derby” to the program in 1927. The very first Gazi Derby was exclusive to thoroughbreds without any age limits. The Derby took place in the sports facilities near a location which is currently known as Tandoğan square.
In 1920, when Greeks took the offensive and entered the Uşak province, Mustafa Kemal, the Great Leader, ordered that horse racing activities were to be organized in Ankara. The Great Leader made this decision with an aim to boost the morale of the fellow citizens of our country in the state of war and ward off the turmoils of war even for a brief moment. He even commissioned historical figures of the period in the organization of this horse racing event. Among others, such historical figures included the members of the parliament, generals, and governors. General Mustafa Kemal also ordered establishing of a joint wagering commission for this horse racing event.
Another anecdote to show how much Atatürk was interested in horse racing was during the construction of the Ankara Provincial Racecourse. Atatürk ordered a sports complex including a racecourse to be built on an empty land in 1932 and on the inauguration day in 1936, he learned that there were some imperfections in the racecourse and he refused to attend the first inauguration. After completion of shortcomings, Atatürk then attended the racecourse for the Fall Season Races.
Gazi Derby was first organized on June 10th, 1927 on 2000 meters with a prize money of TRY 2,000. The winner of the first Gazi Derby was a thoroughbred mare named Neriman, owned by Hacı Bekirzade Ali Muhittin Bey, with the Jockey İhsan Atçı. The finish time of the race was recorded as 02.15.00. In 1929, Celal Bayar won this important race with his thoroughbred named "Cap Gris Nez” and İsmet İnönü won the race in 1930 with his thoroughbred named "Olgo”.
Organized as an open race weight for age in 1928, Gazi Derby was later organized in 1932 exclusive to 3-year old thoroughbred foals born in Turkey on 2400 m. with a total prize money of TRY 5,000. The latter was the equivalent of the British Epsom Derby Horse Race, which was considered among the most prestigious classic races in the world in terms of racing conditions. The winner of this monumental race was “Lale”, a 3-year old thoroughbred foal owned by Akif Akson Bey, with jockey N.Horvath. Gazi Derby of 1936 was held in Ankara Provincial Racecourse built next to Ankara 19 Mayıs Stadium and the winner was a thoroughbred foal named “Şilem”, owned by M. Alan Bey.
In 1938, the name of Gazi Derby was changed to Atatürk Derby. The winner of this pivotal race was a colt (i.e. male foal) named “Romance”, owned by A. Sait Türkhan Bey, with jockey N. Horvath. Organized for the
first time at İstanbul Veliefendi Racecourse in 1968, the winner of this significant Derby was “Asuvan”, owned by Burhan Karamehmet, with jockey Sedat Okumuş.
The sterling silver statue of Atatürk riding a horse, the award of Gazi Derby as the most prestigious derby in the history of Turkish horse racing, began to be granted to the winners of "Gazi Derby since 1970. Made by the famous sculptor Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şadi Çalık, the first winner of this statue was Sadun Atığ, the owner of the thoroughbred named "Sadettin". The most unique feature of the Gazi Derby is the fact that 3-year old thoroughbreds may run in this race only once throughout their whole racing career.
Gazi Derby has a particularly special place among all other races. It is a great honor even to participate with a thoroughbred in this race. The thoroughbred winning this race is also granted the title of the most successful thoroughbred of the year and has a special place in the history of horse racing. For this reason, every thoroughbred owner would wholeheartedly wish to be able to participate in Gazi Derby and become a winner.
Thoroughbreds and their foals both as a winner of Gazi Derby; Cap Gris Nez: (Yılmazkaya), Karayel: (I. Seren and Cartegena), Akkor: (Toraman), and George Thomas: (Caprice).
Sires of the foals who won Gazi Derby the most; Cihangir: 6 times with Atlıhan, Melikşah, Kayarlı, Pikehan, Minimo, and Akkor, Wings Of Song: 5 times with Beau Brummel, Mirage, İcaros, Beau Monair, and Helene de Troia, Onyx II: 5 times with Özdemir, Tomru, Şilem, Taşpınar, and Konca.
Broodmare of the foals who won Gazi Derby the most; Fleche d`Or: 3 times with Beau Brummel, La Fleche, and Beau Monair.
The best score in Gazi Derby belongs to the thoroughbred named Bold Pilot (2.26.22), owned by Özdemir Atman, in 1996.
The Stable winning the Gazi Derby most was ELİYEŞİL Stable with a total of 13 wins with Darling (1950), Kusun (1953), Atlıhan (1961), Melikşah (1963), Kayarlı (1964), Minimo (1971), Akkor (1972), Karayel (1973), Buğra (1976), Toraman (1982), Cartagena (1984), Hafız (1986), and Popular Demand (2005).
The jockey who won the Gazi Derby most was Mümin Çılgın with a total of 9 wins with Helene De Troia (1960), Apaçi (1965), Nadas (1974), Dr. Seferof (1979), Dersim (1981), Uğurtay (1985), Hafız (1986), Top Image (1988), and Abbas (1991).
Ahmet Çelik has an important by winning the Gazi Derby 7 years in a row with Renk (2015), Graystorm (2016), Piano Sonata (2017), Hep Beraber (2018), The Last Romance (2019), CALL TO VICTORY (2020) and Burgas (2021).
Jockey and Son both Winning Gazi Derby: Davut Akdı with Taşpınar (1937) and Toros (1944); his son, Süleyman Akdı, with Cihangir Harmony (1978) and Prestige (1992).