The solid gold trophy that will be presented to the owner of the 3-year-old Thoroughbred that wins the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) on Saturday, May 2 has arrived at Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”) and was unveiled to members of the media on Tuesday, March 31.
The 14-karat gold, handcrafted Kentucky Derby Winner’s Trophy, which will be presented to the winning owner in ceremonies in the Kentucky Derby Winner’s Circle following American’s greatest race, arrived in Louisville aboard a Brinks truck on Friday evening. The priceless trophy was unveiled to the public for the first time during a Tuesday media briefing in the Directors Room of the Churchill Downs Clubhouse. Alongside the Winner’s Trophy were three smaller sterling silver replica trophies that will be presented to Kentucky Derby 141’s winning trainer, jockey and breeder.
The priceless trophy was crafted for the 40th consecutive year by a team of artisans from New England Sterling in North Attleboro, Mass., which has since been purchased by Richline, a subsidiary of Berskhire Hathaway Inc.
Susanne Blackinton-Juaire, a fifth-generation silversmith and a member of the team that created the trophy, was at Churchill Downs for the first public display of a trophy that she described as “a labor of love” for the team. She said the multi-layered task of creating each year’s Kentucky Derby Winner’s trophy usually lasts four-to-five months.
“We typically start working on it in the fall,” Blackinton-Juaire said. “There’s a whole series: there’s the gold cup, the silver cups and the Kentucky Oaks trophies that we simultaneously work on. The gold (Derby winner’s) cup typically gets finished first to make sure all is good and we hold on to it a bit. We finished it up just a couple of weeks ago.”
Blackinton-Juaire said there is a reward in delivering the finished product to Churchill Downs, but the scene in the Derby Winner’s Circle in which the trophies are presented to the winning owner, trainer, jockey and breeder is the real payoff for the artisans who crafted trophy.
“They’ve put so much into it,” Blackinton-Juaire said. “We’re watching on the monitors or on TV, and there’s always the jockey or the owner, or there is someone just staring at the cup and they want to pick it right up and they’re holding it in the air. You see their elation – they’re just so happy and proud – and that always brings a smile to my face. It’s hard to let the trophy go, but when you see it in the hands of the winners and those smiling faces, we know it’s all worth it.”
The solid-gold Kentucky Derby 141 Winner’s Trophy, like its predecessors, is 22 inches tall and weighs approximately 65 ounces (neither measurement includes its jade base). The trophy is topped by a 14-karat gold horse and rider and has horseshoe-shaped wreath handles attached to its sides.
Churchill Downs declines to put a dollar value on the coveted trophy. Both the track and Richline prefer to describe the trophy’s value as “priceless”, since the only way to obtain it is to win the Kentucky Derby.
The trophy will be in the care of the Kentucky Derby Museum until Kentucky Derby Day. It has an annual schedule of public appearances that include display at the post draw for the Kentucky Derby on Wednesday, April 29, and at the Louisville-area Kroger location at which the hand-sewn garland of roses will be created on Kentucky Derby Eve, Friday, May 1.
The trophies unveiled Tuesday will be presented to the owners of Kentucky Derby 141’s winning horse twice. The first presentation comes immediately following the race in the Derby Winner’s Circle. Churchill Downs then takes the trophies back for engraving, and the engraved trophies are presented each year on the night of the running of Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap, which is scheduled this year for Saturday, June 13.
KENTUCKY DERBY TROPHY QUICK FACTS
- The 14-karat gold trophy topped by horse and rider was created by New England Sterling of North Attleboro, Mass., which has produced the hand-crafted trophy since 1975;
- New England Sterling is owned by Richline, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.;
- The handcrafted trophy’s standard design was commissioned by legendary Churchill Downs President Col. Matt Winn for the “Golden Anniversary Derby” in 1924;
- The Kentucky Derby Winner’s Trophy is 22 inches tall and weighs approximately 65 ounces, excluding its jade base;
- The trophy is topped by a 14-karat gold horse and rider and horseshoe-shaped wreath handles;
- In 1997 the 18-karat gold horseshoe that adorns the trophy, which had been faced downward since its creation in 1924, was turned 180 degrees. Racing lore holds that the “luck will run out” of a horseshoe that is pointed down;
- The trophy took on added features for the 75th (1949), 100th (1974) and 125th (1999) runnings of the Kentucky Derby. Each of those trophies included a mantle of “roses” fashioned from rubies and emeralds, along with a horseshoe filled with diamonds. Similar additions are planned for the trophy presented at the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby in 2024;
- The Kentucky Derby Winner’s Trophy has been created by New England Sterling in North Attleboro, Mass. since 1975;
- It took an estimated 2,000 man-hours for New England Sterling artisans to create the trophy;
- New England Sterling also creates three smaller, sterling silver replica trophies that are presented to the winning Kentucky Derby trainer, jockey and breeder;
- The engraved Kentucky Derby winner’s trophies will be presented during a ceremony in the regular winner’s circle at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 13.