The priceless solid gold trophy that will be presented to the owner of the 3-year-old Thoroughbred that wins the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) has arrived safely at Churchill Downs exactly 40 days before the big race on the first Saturday in May.
The 14-karat gold trophy was unveiled to members of the media Monday, March 25 in the Directors Room on the fourth floor of the Churchill Downs Clubhouse. It started its journey to the Louisville track after finishing touches were placed on the coveted prize by artisans at New England Sterling of North Attleboro, Mass., which has created each Kentucky Derby winner’s trophy since 1975.
Marc Forbes of New England Sterling delivered the 2013 trophy to Churchill Downs, and donned white gloves to handle the special cup as it was unveiled just a few yards from the famed Twin Spires of the home of the Kentucky Derby.
“Someone is going to realize their dream as they hoist this trophy above their head in the Winner’s Circle with exhilaration of having won the Kentucky Derby,” Forbes said. “Just as they have that exhilaration, so will New England Sterling and its artisans. We have manufactured this trophy since 1975 and take a lot of pride in doing so.”
Forbes was accompanied to Churchill Downs by two of the primary artisans who created the 2103 trophy: the husband-wife team of Bill and Susanne Blackinton Juaire. Susan is a fifth-generation silversmith whose New England family firs entered the profession in 1862 – 13 years before the 1875 running of the first Kentucky Derby. Bill Juaire has been part of the team that has created the trophy since 1986 and has contributed to the creation of 28 Kentucky Derby Winner’s Trophies.
"This trophy has been a part of my whole life,” said Susanne Blackinton Juaire. “We love to watch the end of the race and see the presentation of the cup, and to see the smiles on all of the faces. It brings us a lot of joy.”
Forbes said the trophy takes “about 2,000 man-hours” to create the trophy each year. The process to fashion each year’s Derby begins the previous October on a schedule designed for the delivery of the trophy to the Louisville track in late March or early April.
Between now and Kentucky Derby Day, the trophy will be in the care of the Kentucky Derby Museum. It will make public appearances at several events, which include the annual “Taste of Derby” and creation of the Kentucky Derby Rose Garland on Derby Eve, before it is transported to the Kentucky Derby Winner’s Circle for America’s greatest race on Saturday, May 4.
KENTUCKY DERBY WINNER’S TROPHY QUICK FACTS
- 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 that will be 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 1875;
- It takes an estimated 2,000 man-hours for New England Sterling artisans to create each trophy;
- New England Sterling also creates three smaller, sterling silver replica trophies that are presented to the winning Kentucky Derby trainer, jockey and breeder.