Secretariat Group Buys Derby Trophy

The anonymous bidder who recently purchased the gold winner's trophy earned by Majestic Prince in the 1969 Kentucky Derby is no stranger to such hardware.

Louisville, Ky.-based Internet company Secretariat.com made the winning bid of $60,000 to buy the trophy at the Doyle Auction in New York July 20.

Secretariat.com is operated in conjunction with Mrs. Penny Chenery, who owned Secretariat, the legendary winner of the 1973 Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown, as well as 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes victor Riva Ridge.

The purchase of the 1969 Kentucky Derby trophy marks the first public transfer of ownership of a Derby winner's trophy since the 1937 trophy won by Triple Crown winner War Admiral was sold by the estate of owner Sam Riddle.

Leonard Lusky, president of Secretariat.com, made the winning bid via telephone following a joint decision with Chenery to enter the bidding. The under-bidder for the trophy turned out to be the Kentucky Derby Museum, which possesses one of the nation's largest collection of Derby trophies.

Lusky said that Secretariat.com purchased the trophy to ensure that it would be publicly displayed and utilized to promote Thoroughbred racing and that the Kentucky Derby Museum would be the first to benefit from that goal. The new owner will loan the trophy to the museum, where it will be the centerpiece of an exhibit on that historic running of the famed "Run for the Roses." The exhibit on the Derby victory by Majestic Prince is scheduled to open Aug. 22.

"The purchase of this trophy fits squarely within a primary goal of our company, which is to celebrate Thoroughbred racing's past as a means to preserve its future," said Lusky. "Mrs. Chenery and I felt that the purchase and the public showing of the trophy would be a wonderful way to increase interest and enthusiasm for the sport."

"It is both an honor and an obligation to promote and perpetuate the heritage and pageantry of the Kentucky Derby," said Chenery. "I am delighted to have played a part in bringing the trophy home to Kentucky."

Secretariat.com serves as the horse's official Web site and chronicles the career of the racing legend known to his fans as "Big Red."

The exhibit that will feature the 1969 Derby trophy is also scheduled to include the silks worn by jockey Bill Hartack, who earned a record-tying fifth Kentucky Derby victory aboard Majestic Prince, and other memorabilia from the 95th running of the Kentucky Derby.

That renewal of the Kentucky Derby was notable for much more than Hartack's record. Majestic Prince was one of the rare unbeaten horses to win America's greatest race and the victory gave trainer Johnny Longden the distinction of being the only person in history to train and ride a Derby winner. In his previous career as a Hall of Fame jockey, Longden had guided 1943 Triple Crown winner Count Fleet to victory in the Derby.

At the time, Majestic Prince made history as the most expensive horse to win the Derby. Canadian industrialist Frank McMahon had purchased the son of Raise a Native for a then-record $250,000 at the 1967 Keeneland July select yearling sale.

Majestic Prince also won the Preakness and entered the Belmont Stakes with the opportunity to become the first unbeaten winner of the Triple Crown, but that bid ended in a runner-up finish to Rokeby Stable's Arts and Letters, who had finished second in both the Derby and the Preakness and would go on to earn Horse of the Year honors at the end of that racing season. The Belmont also proved to be the final race for Majestic Prince, who finished his career with a record of 9-1-0 in 10 races and earned $414,200.

Following his racing career, Majestic Prince launched a breeding career at Spendthrift Farm, the Lexington farm where he was bred and raised. Spendthrift owner Leslie Combs II had been so thrilled to breed a Derby winner that he commissioned a duplicate gold Derby trophy for himself that featured his name as the breeder of record. The Combs trophy is already in the collection at the Kentucky Derby Museum and will also be part of the exhibit on the 1969 Derby.

"We were concerned that the 1969 Derby trophy might become part of someone's private collection and, although we were disappointed that our bid fell just short, we were pleased to learn the identity of the winning bidder," said Lynn Ashton, executive director of the Kentucky Derby Museum. "We have worked with Mrs. Chenery on many occasions and are pleased to continue that relationship as we combine our resources to present the exhibited built around the trophy won by Majestic Prince."

The Provident Loan Society consigned the 14-karat, solid gold trophy to the Doyle Auction. Its pre-auction value was listed at $15,000 to $20,000 based solely on the 50 ounces of gold used to make the trophy. Churchill Downs currently lists the estimated value of a Derby winner's trophy at $90,000, although an individual trophy could be worth more as an artifact.

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