Colonel Matt Winn’s name is whispered with reverence throughout the halls and stalls of Churchill Downs.  He was the president of the track in the early 1900s and pretty much made the Kentucky Derby the American icon that it is today.

First of all he made sure that the best Thoroughbreds in the world raced in the Kentucky Derby. Then he used his formidable marketing prowess to turn the Derby into a must-see event for anybody who was anybody, bringing in Hollywood starlets and national sports icons to add glamour to the race.

That strategy worked and the tradition endures. The biggest names in sports, movies, politics and music have flocked to the Derby over the years, adding plenty of glitz and glamour and keeping Colonel Winn’s vision alive.


Click on the slideshow above to enjoy photos of 142 years of Derby’s celebrity guests.

Also, here’s a great New York Times blog post blog post about how amazing Colonel Winn really was and how he made the Kentucky Derby great.

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