As the winners of the 2015 Kentucky Derby were making their way to the Winner’s Circle, one of American Pharoah’s connections kept enthusiastically repeating, “It is so hard to get to this spot!” And it truly is, but I took a different route to get there.
Every year, Churchill Downs entrusts the curators at the Kentucky Derby Museum to transport the Kentucky Derby Gold Cup, awarded annually to the winning owner, to special events and out to the Winner’s Circle before the big race. As assistant curator, I was privileged with the responsibility of being in charge of the trophy this year.
I helped transport the trophy to A Taste of Derby, the Middletown Kroger and media appearances so fans could view the trophy before it was presented to the winner. Although I was consistently mistaken as one of the members of the Kentucky Derby Festival Royal Court (since I’ll be turning 30 next month I was not at all upset that people thought I looked like I was a college student), I really enjoyed getting to interact with so many people and talking to them about which horses they were cheering on, how they were planning on celebrating and what they were looking forward to most. Having these experiences placed me in the middle of the excitement and set the atmosphere for what was to come on the First Saturday in May.
Oaks and Derby day are a whirlwind of excitement, and it will be tough to capture in words how special these days were. While setting up the Oaks perpetual trophy at Churchill Downs early Friday morning, the display was surrounded by two large floral arrangements of roses and lilies. The aroma was delightful and served as a reminder that I needed to stop and smell the roses and cherish every moment of the unique experience provided to me.
Taking the Derby trophies out to the Winner’s Circle was definitely the pinnacle experience for me. Getting to cross the track, stand on the platform and set up the trophies for the winners was so special, and looking straight ahead at the grandstand and Twin Spires, seeing all those people excitedly waiting the start of the race was just as thrilling. I had such a unique viewpoint to watch the race because I was able to watch the horses charging around the track while also simultaneously watching the crowd’s irrepressible enthusiasm. It was certainly an experience I will never forget.