The solid gold winner's trophy arrived at Churchill Downs Thursday, exactly 30 days before the 138th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
The trophy, crafted by artisans at New England Sterling in Attleboro, Mass., was delivered to the home of the Kentucky Derby by New England Sterling President Marc Forbes and unveiled to members of the media in ceremonies in the Directors Room of the Churchill Downs Clubhouse. Forbes also delivered three smaller, sterling silver replica trophies that will be presented to the Derby’s winning trainer, jockey and breeder. The large trophy goes to the winning owner.
It stands 22 inches tall, not including its jade base, and weighs about 60 ounces. The trophy is topped by a 14-karat gold horse and rider and has horseshoe-shaped handles.
“We spend about 2,000 man hours making this trophy, and the effort is a tremendous point of pride for all involved in that work,” Forbes said. “This trophy is a prize that is absolutely priceless. That’s not only because of the value of the 14-karat gold that makes up the trophy, but because of what it means to win the Kentucky Derby. This trophy is something you cannot buy. To acquire it you have to win America’s greatest race, and that is one of the most difficult accomplishments in sports.”
The design of the piece dates to 1924, when Col. Matt Winn, Churchill Downs’ legendary general manager and eventual track president, commissioned the trophy for the Derby’s “golden anniversary” running. Two earlier versions of the trophy had been presented to the winning owner in 1922 and 1923.
The trophy will be in the care of the Kentucky Derby Museum in the days leading up to the May 5 Run for the Roses. It is traditionally displayed in public several times prior to the race. This year, that includes stops at the Kentucky Derby Museum Gala on April 27, the Kentucky Derby Media Party on May 2, the Taste of Derby Party on May 3 and the Middletown Kroger on Kentucky Oaks Night, May 4. In the latter event, the trophy will be on display while the Kroger team members create the traditional garland of roses that will be worn by the Kentucky Derby winner on the following day.
Outside of jeweled embellishments made to the trophy for the special anniversary renewals in 1949 (75th Derby), 1974 (100th), and 1999 (125th), there has been only one significant change in the trophy’s design. That came in 1999 when track officials deferred to Thoroughbred racing tradition and changed the direction of a decorative horseshoe on the trophy.
The horseshoe had pointed downward on each trophy created since 1924, but the design was altered and the horseshoe was turned up on the 1999 Derby trophy. Racing superstition holds that all of the luck will run out of a horseshoe that is turned downward.
--Edited Churchill Downs release