Inaugurated in 1887 as the Brooklyn Derby at the now defunct Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island, in 1918 it was renamed for the Dwyer brothers, Mike & Phil, who dominated thoroughbred racing in the late 19th century. At one time, it was a Grade I stakes race that was a major part of the American Thoroughbred racing season. It was known as the Dwyer Handicap from 1957 to 1978.
Since inception, the race has been competed at various distances:
1 <sup>1</sup>/<small>16</small> miles : 1887-1924, 1935–1939, 1994 to present
1⅛ miles : 1888-1897, 1915–1924, 1935–1939, 1975–1993, 2010
1 <sup>3</sup>/<small>16</small> miles : 1956-1959