Every Boxing Day, racecourses around the UK celebrate the festive season by getting trollied and further rinsing their pockets with some post-Christmas betting. But one of the big dogs (or horses, as it were) of the racing calendar comes in summer: the Epsom Derby.
One of the traditional events of "the Season", the simply-named carousel of rich-people shindigs that begins in spring and includes the Chelsea Flower Show and the Grand National, the Epsom Derby attracts over 100,000 people every year and has a £1.5 million prize pot.
Marco Sconocchia wasn’t there for the horses or the money. “As a photographer I thought to myself, Do you want to see high society collapsed drunk? Go to Epsom,” he tells VICE. “ Do you want to see the rich kids wave a pile of cash in front of you? Go to Epsom. Do you want to see kitsch hats you didn’t even have an idea could exist? Still Epsom.”
The pomp and circumstance of the races drew Marco to the annual Surrey event. “For two days the small town of Epsom becomes the centre of the eccentricity,” he explains. “After long time spent in England, I am still really fascinated about how traditions are an important part of society.”
His photos reveal a side to England only familiar to those who frequent the races – or do the thankless job of working and clearing up behind the thousands of boozed-up ticket-goers. In 2019, six people were arrested over the course of the two-day festival, including two people on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly and one for grievous bodily harm – all on the same day that the Queen made her annual visit to the racecourse.
Of course, that’s not forgetting the real stars of the show: the horses. Marco put a fiver down on a horse named Terminator. He remembers thinking: “I just think about the horse meat scandal of 2013, and I remember that I eat horses – in Italy, it’s really common – I feel guilty. These poor animals are running for our solace and I eat them? Did the ancient Romans ate gladiators after the fights?” It's a good thing Marco got his shots; Terminator ended up losing the race.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.