(Edited press release)
The solid gold trophy that will be presented to the owner of the Thoroughbred that wins the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 2 is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs March 25 at 2 p.m. ET.
The trophy, which is believed to be the only solid gold trophy presented annually to the winner of an American sports event, will be on display at several public and private events in the weeks before it is formally presented to the winning owner following the 135th running of the Derby.
The Derby winner’s trophy is created each year by the New England Sterling of Attleboro, Mass. and Marc Forbes, the company’s president, personally will escort the 14-karat hand-made trophy on its journey to Louisville. Accompanying Forbes will be Tim Jacobs, one of the New England Sterling artisans who fashioned the 2009 trophy.
“New England Sterling creates many wonderful pieces each year, but the winner’s trophy for the Kentucky Derby clearly remains our most special item,” Forbes said. “This solid gold trophy is produced specifically for each year’s renewal of the ‘Run for the Roses,’ and its value is, quite literally, priceless. Our team at New England Sterling is proud to be such an important part of the rich tradition of the Kentucky Derby, one of the world’s greatest sports events.”
The current version of the Kentucky Derby winner’s trophy dates to 1924, when Col. Matt Winn, Churchill Downs’ legendary general manager and eventual track president, commissioned the trophy for the “golden anniversary” running of the race. Two earlier versions of the trophy had been presented to the winning owner in 1922 and 1923.
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 change also 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.
The trophy, which is topped by a 14-karat gold horse and rider, has horseshoe-shaped wreath handles and stands 22-inches tall, which includes its jade base. The trophy weighs approximately 60 ounces.
New England Sterling, since 1975 has also created three smaller versions of the Kentucky Derby winner’s trophy that are presented to the winning trainer, jockey, and breeder of the Derby winner.
Information on New England Sterling, Inc. is available on the Web at http://www.newenglandsterling.com/index.htm/.